Sure, you can tell your kid to bathe regularly, to never be late, to eat balanced meals, to thank customer service employees, to be a pure and utter delight. But you might just sound like a flight attendant announcing the aeroplane safety procedures with a broken microphone. To get kids to really think about their actions and make more thoughtful choices, one teacher shares this psychological technique: Have them think about how they can behave badly.
Photo: MPIX (Shutterstock)
On Edutopia, Esther Park writes about an exercise she did with her Year 5 students. Before an excursion to an art museum, instead of simply reviewing the safety rules and watching them slump over in boredom, Park tried reverse thinking. She asked the kids, “How can we make sure to get kicked out of the museum today?”
Here’s what happened:
At first, there was silence. My students just stared at me, thinking that I had misspoken. They waited for me to correct myself. I didn’t – instead I convinced them that such absurdity was deliberate. The once unenthusiastic students now wore mischievous smiles.
One student raised his hand and yelled, “Touch everything on display!” Another student chimed in, “We can talk really loud!” Yet another exclaimed, “Run laps around the entire gallery!”
… I knew then that they were hooked and invested in our discussion.
The kids started analysing the consequences of potential actions – how touching the displays could hurt the art and prevent others from enjoying it. They then brainstormed ways to avoid making mistakes. When the kids finally entered the museum, they behaved wonderfully, Park reports. They reminded each other to be respectful and kept referring back to the discussion. “The beauty of reverse thinking is that it can captivate and engage even the most cynical and apathetic students,” Park writes. “More importantly, it can help students honestly identify challenges, explore potential causes of those challenges, and develop creative strategies or solutions.”
Park shares other ways reverse thinking might work in schools. It can be effective at home, too.
Some questions you can ask your kids:
- How can we make our friend want to leave our house when she comes over?
- How can we give ourselves a stomachache?
- How can we make this room as disgusting as possible?
Our minds need to explore and acknowledge all possibilities – even the worst case scenarios – before we can calmly plan out what we need to do. Plus, kids love the idea of being a little “bad”, so have their mischievous minds work toward something good.
“Asking Students to Plan Bad Behaviour” [Edutopia]