Addressing negative behaviors in other people’s children is tricky. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve taught a Sunday School class or supervised a play date and at the end, the parents inevitably ask, “How was he/she?” It’s important not to ‘tattle’ on a child if an issue has occurred and it has been successfully dealt with, but it’s also important to be honest.
Likewise, hearing anything negative about your child is extremely difficult. Although we, as parents, see them at their worst, we love them anyway. And we always expect (or at least hope) that others feel the same. We want individuals interacting with our children, whether teachers, coaches, or youth leaders, to always look for the best in our child! It’s important to keep this in mind as we interact with other people’s children.
As a former first grade teacher, I’ve had my fair share of conferences with parents (both scheduled and impromptu). I have found a method that positively communicates with a parent, whether or not the child’s exhibited behavior was positive or not. I call it the sandwich method.
Here’s how it works.
1) The Bread: Start with something genuinely positive about the child. Be specific…don’t be generic. “She’s such a sweet girl,” or “He’s a good kid,” is not good enough. Think of something specific that you’ve noticed about the child that had a positive impact on those around him/her.
2) The Meat: Once you’ve said something positive, now it’s time to address any issues or negative behavior you think the parent needs to be aware of.
3) The Bread: End the conversation with another specific compliment on the child. Again, try your hardest not to use generic statements.
This is a powerful tool for people of all ages because we are validating the child (or co-worker or mother-in-law) and seeing him/her in a positive light overall while still tackling whatever difficulties have arisen.
We all know that our children aren’t perfect (and neither are we), but we still want to know that the people caring for them in our absence always look for the best in them! The ‘Sandwich Method’ reinforces this while still communicating honestly with parents.
Try it out the next time you are watching over someone else’s children…or even the next time you have conflict with an adult! If I was on the receiving end of such a dialogue, I would be absolutely thrilled that someone cared to notice the precious and admirable qualities in my child (or even in me)!