This series of Success Skill guides uses processes of identification, gathering evidence, and repetition to proactively encourage our brains to learn a new skill. Identification means you label or name the skills which makes it easier for your brain to recall and connect to. Gathering evidence is about seeing examples which helps your brain know what the desired behaviors look like and that they are possible. Repetition solidifies the new thought pattern ensuring the the brain will use this new method of thinking in the future. To use make this happen:
1) Be familiar with what the skill of the month looks like by reading through the information on the website and/or printable summary page. It might be helpful to print out the summary sheet to put in a place you can see it.
2) Think about which resources you will use and when. The resources act as the evidence your brain needs. It can be used to begin conversations and reinforce the ideas and actions involved with the skill of the month. There are lots of resources listed on the website. It’s up to you to choose how many you want to use. It’s not necessary to use them all.
Use questions in your conversations in order to know what children are thinking and understanding about these ideas. The more their brains interact with these ideas the more they can become part of their behavior.
Think about which activities you want to use and when you can do some of them together. (You could read stories together after school or at bedtime.) You don’t have to do an activity or have a discussion about this skill everyday, but a few times a week will keep the ideas in mind. That will make it easier to remember to notice the skill and work on the challenges you’ll choose to do together.
3) Introduce the skill to your child. Pick an activity to start with. Movies work well for this. But a story could work too. Follow up about that activity with a short discussion about what the skill is and what it looks like. Information at the top of the summary sheet will be helpful for that discussion.
Keep it relatively short so kids don’t lose interest. You don’t need to tell them everything there is to know about the skill in one sitting. You can always add more information during later conversations. And listen to their observations, as kids interact with these ideas they will probably have some important insights of their own.
4) Continue to reinforce this skill.
Find additional evidence of the skill by using and discussing additional resources from the list on the website or summary sheet (and of course, ones you know of). Other point out examples of the skill you notice around you, especially in yourself and the child. (See more info about how to do this.)
Even if you move on to another skill, continue to point out evidence and label this skill occasionally. It’s especially important to mention when yourself or a child use that specific skill (or even lovingly ask how that skill could have helped or been used in a specific situation).
Why this Method Works
The movies, stories and miscellaneous ideas provide examples or evidence of this particular skill. It helps your mind know what the skill looks like. And, even though the movies and stories may be made up, they still helps you see how acting in this way is possible.
Any other ways you can provide evidence to your brain or a child’s brain will help in developing this skill. So, in other movies, stories, and especially in real life experiences it is powerful to notice, point out, and label the specific skills being used. (“Look at how the Little Red Hen kept going even when her friends didn’t want to help her. That’s persistence.” “Look at how you stopped playing to see if your sister was ok when she fell down. What’s that called? Yes, that’s compassion.”)
Base Expectations on Developmental Capability
In understanding child development it is known that the ability to master many of these skills may not come until teen years or later. That does not mean you should way to discuss and practice these skills until then. It means as you discuss and work on these skills with kids, keep in mind realistic expectations for their age and abilities. Remind yourself and kids that you are a work in progress, to be patient with yourself and that practice will help you get better and better.
When anyone learns it will be a little at a time. It’s not different for kids. But even so, some of these concepts cannot be completely understood because a child’s brain physically isn’t wired to process them yet.
Although brain function to master these skills isn’t developed until later, there a level at which kids can understand and begin to develop these skills. It is always a good idea to be talking about concepts we want kids to know in the future so when they really need them they already have a good foundation to build upon.