Book Study Part 2: Self-Control

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Welcome back! I've been reading the book You Can't Teach a Class You Can't Manage by Donna Whyte and it's time to talk about Cornerstone #1 for building a strong foundation for classroom management: Self-Control.


If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here. Otherwise, let's get started. All slides are my notes and quotes from the book. I hope there is something there that speaks to you.


The behavior expectations on the playground are not the same as the expectations for the classroom. The same goes for the cafeteria and the library. Children need guidance on how to behave in different situations. How they play at home with mom and dad, or brother and sister, may not be the way they should play at home. This is a learned skill that we must teach. Will every child understand this the first time? Of course not. That's why they need practice!

Will every child know how to behave when they don't get what they want? You can stop laughing now. That's exactly why we have to teach them. You wouldn't expect a child to multiply and divide without some foundational lessons first. The same goes with behavior. Children have to learn how to deal with nuisances like hearing the word "No" and finding appropriate strategies for reacting to it. 

Likewise with waiting, or rushing. Take the time to model how long it takes to do things. Dawdling and rushing can both be problems if not addressed.


Practice following directions with games like Simon Says, or with learning procedures. Not every child comes into kindergarten knowing how to push in a chair without knocking it over and making chaos. Teach them. And when they forget (because they will) teach them again.

My favorite point of hers in this chapter is about language. Whyte says, "Being in command of our language is as important as being in command of our behavior." That has also been an ongoing conversation in our classroom. Sticks and stones AND WORDS can hurt us. Mindfulness of our words is just as important as being mindful of our bodies.

She also writes about how self-control includes thinking for ourselves. Mom and Dad aren't at school to think for their babies and tell them how to do everything. As their surrogate parents, our job is to provide them with strategies for coming up with solutions to challenges themselves, AND how do handle the consequences, good or bad, of those decisions. 

Perhaps one of the hardest for children (and adults) to learn is how to agree to disagree. Also, you don't have to attend every argument you're invited to. Sometimes it's okay to let it go. (Lessons learned from Queen Elsa...)


With this digital age we are in now, immediate satisfaction is ever present. Need an answer? Google it. Want to hear a certain song or see a movie right now? Youtube and Netflix are at your disposal almost anywhere. But is any of it necessary? Absolutely not. Whyte gives an example of shopping: She never buys things full price (a woman after my own heart) because the week after she would have bought it at sticker price, it goes on sale. If she waits a week or two, she gets the item she wants and has more money in her pocket. A great payoff for delaying gratification.

Many children have learned that if they pester their parents enough, they'll cave in and the child will get whatever it is he/she wants. "No" should mean "no". Not "maybe," or "ask a few more times." When children have follow through, they learn boundaries and how to accept disappointment.

But what do you do if you can't get what you want? Many children come to kindergarten not knowing what that's like. We have to teach strategies on how to deal with not getting what we want, or not being the center of  attention, or calling all the shots. It's a hard lesson to learn in September in kindergarten. For some, it's still a hard lesson in March. *Sigh* But we need to be diligent in teaching that life goes on, even if we don't get what we want. That coveted spot as line leader or door holder will still be available later, and we will have a turn on the computer, and the red crayon will be there when we're done with the blue one, but until then we need coping strategies. Sometimes lots of them. 

All this requires that we follow through with what we say. So if we say, "First this, then that," we have to do it. Setting boundaries and expectations builds a sense of security with children. Without feelings of security, no learning can take place. 

With so many expectations, it's no wonder many children struggle with the transition from home or daycare to a structured school setting. I have often said we need two levels of kindergarten, one that focuses mainly on social skills and one that is more academic oriented. But I don't get to run the world so...

Join us Monday for Cornerstone #2: Choice. 

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