A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about helping to shift the negative identity of a child through everyday experiences. I received many emails asking me more about this topic. It is clear from listening to those that work with children, that many of the children we work with have internalized negative labels and feel stuck seeing themselves as bad, irresponsible, mean, etc.

After reading these emails, I decided to dig deeper and share how reframing a situation for a child is another strategy that we can use to support stuck children in seeing themselves in a new light.


So, what is reframing a situation?


Reframing a situation can allow a child to see the good in themselves in the midst of a perceived failure or upset. It emphasizes the positive aspect of what a child did during a challenging situation, rather than focusing on what didn’t go well.

By focusing on tiny positive moments, we can help them to identify with their growth and capacity, not their failures, thereby increasing their odds of future success.


What might this look like?


It can look like this: 

Every day Matthew “forgets” his homework at home. You remind him daily what needs to be done and to bring it into school the next day. He still forgets it. 

So, you sit with him and discuss ways that might help him to remember, such as writing it in his take-home agenda. You suggest maybe he puts a little note in his backpack or somewhere at home to help him remember. But Matthew still frequently forgets his homework.

About a month goes by and Matthew shows up and says he forgot his homework. He looks tense and worried as he tells you this. In this moment, your impulse is to go right back into nag mode; your internal voice might be saying,

“Really, Matthew? Again?!”

But you realize that over these past few weeks, Matthew had been bringing in his homework on a regular basis—that was why he was nervous to tell you today, because he had been doing so well for a few weeks. So instead of going into nag mode, you reframe it for him and say,

“Wow, Matthew, you should be really proud of yourself. You went for two weeks without forgetting your homework. Two weeks! You should be so proud.”

In this moment, Matthew beams and proudly says, “I know! I am remembering all the time now!”

If the response to Matthew had instead been something like, “Matthew, I’m not sure what else to do to help you remember,” or “When are you going to learn?” this exact situation could compound his sense of feeling like a failure (“I can’t believe I forgot again”).

Instead, by reframing the situation to help him see how much progress he has made, you can help him connect to a sense of feeling responsible (“Look at how much I am remembering now!”). 

When a child starts to identify as responsible, it can increase their sense of responsibility. This is the same for other characteristics with which we hope to help children positively identify. 

Who we think we are matters a lot. And as the caring leaders of children, we have many opportunities to help children to experience and see themselves differently. Reframes are one of the tools we can use to support this process, so that children can step outside of a stuck negative role and discover their positive qualities and abilities, by seeing themselves through our eyes and the vision we present to them of themselves.



Hannah Signature


PS: If you want to know more about Why Classrooms need Rituals of Togetherness – Just like Families, read my last blog post here.

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