Why Talk? – How You Can Improve Self-Regulation Skills

Talking and the Link with Self-Regulation Skills… That Empowers Children’s Voice

Self-Regulation Skills….

Self-regulation skills are an important developmental skill that has an accumulating influence and effect on various areas of children’s development, including their self-esteem and self-worth, which builds their social-emotional wellbeing and self-identity.

By empowering children with their voice through facilitating intentional talk and conversational opportunities, this stimulates their growth of self-regulatory skills. It also supports their literacy and language development, among other developmental areas.

The Importance of Intentional Talk and Conversations

WHY TALK?

~ When children utilise expressive/verbal language skills, they learn about sentence structure, meaning of words in context, turn-taking in conversation and pragmatics (3).

      • These skills are the foundation of other language forms and development, including reading and writing.
      • The best way to learn these skills is through talking, particularly intentional and conversational talk.

~ When children have higher emotional self-regulatory skills, this allows them to understand societal rules and behaviour, which leads them to monitoring their own actions (1).

      • This takes children to the level of internalising their self-regulation, which is what we want for all children’s self-regulation skills to reach.
      • However, before reaching the point they can internalise their self-regulation, children are externally regulating their emotions (2).
      • This means they need adult support to help them to self-regulate (2).
          • Teachers can facilitate this area of development through various means such as the following strategies.

* HOW TO PROMOTE & SUPPORT INTENTIONAL TALK

Engage WITH children in the following experiences:

~ Narrative and play literacy experiences, combined with drama elements for extension. Eg. improvisation, storytelling and puppetry.

~ Sociodramatic play with teachers and peers.

~ Process drama

      • Teachers use a teacher-in-role (TIR) technique to begin a drama/sociodramatic experience. They adopt a submissive role, then during the experience they work alongside the children – questioning, encouraging, developing and/or steering the drama while remaining in-role.
      • E.g. The teacher could be the new fire-fighter en-route to an emergency with the ‘expert’ children fire-fighters.

~ Ask open-ended, thought-provoking / inquiry-based questions, rather than close-ended questions.

* HOW TO PROMOTE & SUPPORT CONVERSATIONAL TALK

INITIATE conversations and/or ENGAGE IN conversations with children.

~ At mealtimes – Have conversations about what they are eating and extend on it by talking about what they like to eat. Other topics to talk about that go beyond the present include, what they enjoyed doing during the day, what they did yesterday or what they will do over the weekend, and how’s their day going (reflecting on their feelings and thoughts of the day).

~ When children need a break, because they are getting a bit too energetic, break up the day with some ‘quiet time’.

      • ‘Quiet time’ is a time where children can get into small groups in a relaxed mood/setting, and have little conversations – recalling past events, predicting future events (such as what they will do tomorrow or on their planned holiday) and/or narrating imagined stories to each other.
So why all this talking? What’s really taking place?

When Children Talk Beyond Their Immediate Context They…

~ Develop ‘decontextualised language’. That is, they talk about and explain events in the past and future, which allows them to wonder and imagine about ideas.

~ Develop their verbal language skills and increase their vocabulary.

~ Develop skills that will contribute later to their writing, both for creative and more formal purposes.

~ When children narrate stories and love to have ‘chats’, they also develop more self-confidence as they learn more social skills and grow in their social-emotional skills and wellbeing (3).

~ Use higher-level thinking skills such as, suggestions and prediction as they answer open-ended questions posed to them. This sparks curiosity that contributes to their cognitive development (4).

When Teachers Have Conversations & Talk With Children… (3)

~ Teachers can model language, including grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary.

~ Teachers can model self-regulatory processing skills.

~ Children learn empathy as they see others have different thoughts, feelings and experiences than themselves.

~ Children develop a sense of belonging and being as they develop trusting relationships with adults and peers through the conversations they have with each other. This all contributes to more self-confidence and positive social-emotional wellbeing.

As a result, children are empowered with their voice! They use their voice/words to speak out, and in doing so, are empowered and realise that their voice can and has the right to be listened to and respected by both their peers and adults.

 

To read more about how to use language as a means to promote self-regulatory skills through other areas in the program, how it supports the growth in other areas of development, and to know more benefits beyond those listed here, refer to the reading by:

(3) Test J.E., Cunningham, D.D., & Lee, A.C. (2010). Talking with young children: How teachers encourage learning. Dimensions of Early Childhood, 38(3), 3-14. From: http://southernearlychildhood.org/upload/pdf/Talking_With_Young_Children.pdf

 

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

(1) Willis, E., & Dinehart, L.H. (2014). Contemplative practices in early childhood: Implications for self-regulation skills and school readiness. Early Child Development and Care, 184(4),487-499. doi: 10.1080/03004430.2013.804069

(2) Bodrova & Leong, 2007; Dawson & Guare, 2010, as cited in Willis & Dinehart (2014).

(4) A study by Weitzman & Greenberg, 2002, as cited in Test, Cunningham, & Lee (2010).

© Tirzah Lim 2017

How Does Children’s Behaviour Affect Teachers’ Wellbeing?

The Bi-Directional Link Between Children’s and Teachers’ Wellbeing

From extensive research in brain development, it has been conclusive that early childhood experiences are vital in developing well established children for the future with positive life outcomes. In particular these experiences affect children’s physical health, social and emotional wellbeing later in life (1,4,8).

Even more, the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the National Quality Framework (NQF) have acknowledged this position and has placed a focused emphasis on the role early childhood practitioners (ECPs) have in understanding and supporting the development of the social wellbeing of children through the relationships they build with both the child and their family (3).

 

Children’s mental health issues contribute to ECPs’ own emotional health and wellbeing.

It has been found that mental health issues, in particular oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and anxiety and depression are among the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in childhood (5,6,7).

In all cases of children’s mental health and wellbeing, it commonly presents itself through behaviour – positive, negative, or even hidden/silent behaviour, which means something.

  • In these cases, it has been found that supporting children in the class who experience more emotional and/or behavioural difficulties, is often aligned to ECPs’ stress levels. In turn, contributing to ECPs’ own emotional wellbeing (4,6).
    • ECP wellbeing has flow on effects in the relationships they form with children, the way they interact with them and react to their behaviour.
    • ECP wellbeing will also have an influence on the relationships they develop with families.

This raises important issues for the early childhood field and for ECPs in understanding their role in supporting the development of positive emotional wellbeing of all children. This includes being equipped with the knowledge of the importance of emotional wellbeing in children’s development. It also involves the responsibility in understanding what ECPs can do to support children and their families/family members who may be experiencing mental health issues.

IMPLICATIONS FOR ECPs

ECPs have a responsibility to establish partnerships and collaboratively work with families.

In the study undertaken by Williams, Sanchez, and Hunnell (2011), they discuss the positive outcomes when there are partnerships between families and education organisations.

They base their study around the concept of an ecological approach, which emphasises four principles that are also relevant to the early childhood context. Two of the most important and interrelated of these being discussed below: interdependence and interpersonal relationships, both of which are also related to developing partnerships with families.

  • To be able to cater for their present needs and to provide effective learning experiences, is to understand children and their past experiences (2). This entails nurturing and growing interdependent relationships with families. It is when families and teachers work hand-in-hand with the unique knowledge they have of the child from each of their contexts (i.e. the home and early childhood service).
  • Instead of the main reason for conversing with families to be negative feedback, such as discussing problematic issues, challenging behaviour, or mishaps that have occurred during the day; when partnerships are focused on the interpersonal relationship it becomes stronger. As a result, there will be more benefits for all involved .
    • Partnerships that are focused on interpersonal relationships create more positive, trusted, and effective relationships.
    • This leads to families being more involved in their children’s education that works towards inclusive practices, while also supporting teachers.
    • In particular, children’s behaviour was more effectively supported, which in turn reduced teacher stress and supported their emotional-wellbeing.

 

REFERENCES

(1) Brown, W.H. & Conroy, M.A. (2011). Social-emotional competence in young children with developmental delays: Our reflection and vision for the future. Journal of Early Intervention, 33(4), 310-320.

(2) Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Retrieved from http://education.gov.au/early-yearslearning-framework

(3) Gloeckler, L. & Cassell, J. (2012). Teacher practices with toddlers during social problem solving opportunities. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(4), 251-257.

(4) Green, B.L., Malsch, A.M., Kothari, B.H. Busse, J. & Brennan, E. (2012). An intervention to increase early childhood staff capacity for promoting children’s social-emotional development in preschool settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(2), 123-132.

(5) Hamilton, S.S. & Armando, J. (2008). Oppositional defiant disorder. American Family Physician, 78(7), 861-866.

(6) Matthys, W., Vanderschuren, L.J.M.J., Schutter, D.J.L.G. & Lochman, J.E. (2012). Impaired neurocognitive functions affect social learning processes in oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder: Implications for interventions. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 15(3), 234-246.

(7) Nordahl, H.M., Well, A., Olsson, C.A. & Bjerkeset, O. (2010). Association between abnormal psychosocial situations in childhood, generalized anxiety disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 44(9), 852-858.

(8) Temple, E. & Emmett, S. (2013). Promoting the development of children’s emotional and social wellbeing in early childhood settings: How can we enhance the capability of educators to fulfil role expectations? Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 38(1), 66-72.

(9) Williams T.T., Sanchez, B., & Hunnell, J. (2011). Aligning theory and practice: Understanding school-family partnerships at an inner-city high school. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(5), 689-697.

© Tirzah Lim 2017