Ashrita Johnson is a bachelors in Arts and Psychology from the University of Mumbai, and a Masters of Arts in Teacher Leadership from the University of Northern Iowa. So powered with a background in education and psychology and a passion for technology, Ashrita began working in elementary education, twelve years ago. She is an Apple Distinguished Educator and currently teaches at the American School of Bombay, where she works with six year olds. With her new baby, and the global pandemic, she is finding ways to make play happen at home for her one year old. She shares these invitations to play and the research behind them on her Instagram page makingplayhappen that she started during the lock-down to support families during these difficult times..
I spoke to her about Gentle Parenting, ways to set up boundaries with toddlers and more. Excerpts from the Interview:
- Adults are always in a rush to ‘correct’ children’s behavior, when we should actually be looking at connecting with them. What is your take on this?
– Children imitate what they see. We tell our children to say good morning to the guard or say thank you to a family member when we should be modelling this instead. Eventually your child will do what they see you doing and you won’t have correct them. It’s also important to point out certain behaviors you notice them doing, ‘I notice you were gentle with the plants’ which will make them likely to repeat that behavior. Focus on acknowledging the positives instead of dissing the negative. Of course, there are certain behaviors that are non negotiable, those concerning safety, when you need to immediately say stop and remove your child from the situation.
2. How do you set boundaries with children without being harsh?
– Always set your child up for success by making the expectations clear before giving them a chance to make a mistake. They should be aware of the consequences. With older children, consequences can be set together with them and your child can have ownership. Pick your battles, it’s okay if something spills on the floor, but it’s not okay to play with wires. Everyone needs some leeway, even babies, they don’t need to be told no all the time.
3. Is disciplining children the correct term to use, since more and more parents are moving towards Gentle Parenting? Pl elaborate on this
Honestly, I have never used the word discipline when it comes to children, neither with my students nor with my daughter. I would use the term ‘Essential Agreements’ as it is something we agree upon together and is essential to ensure we are being safe, respectful and responsible.
4. What care should Parents take when talking to their children? How can we create a positive environment for them to set them up for success?
– Be mindful of over praising your child. It’s easy for children to want to do things because they are extrinsically motivated which includes praise. Avoid making the comments about yourself. Comment on hard work versus intelligence. State facts vs opinions. For example, instead of saying-“I love your beautiful artwork, my smart girl. “Say, “I noticed you worked really hard to add details to your picture by drawing and coloring.”
5. I often feel ‘No’ is an overrated word. What is a better way to communicate when setting limits?
– When I was in flight school, we were told that during emergencies, instead of saying don’t go that way, say go this way and point to the direction you want people to exit the airplane from. If negative commands don’t work for adults, they are not going to work for children either. If it’s a safety issue, you might say, ‘stop, come this way.’ It should be simple to follow and direct. It is sufficient to get them to stop what they are doing immediately. If it is not a safety issue, you might redirect them by pointing to something else and diverting their attention. However, with older kids, it’s crucial to reason with them, ask what they think might be the repercussions and if they think they should do it or not.
Children need to be treated with the same reasoning, respect and attitude we treat adults with. If we wouldn’t speak rudely to an adult, we shouldn’t do it with children either.