Helpful and Safe
By: Carol Castro
Colegio Interamericano
When I lived in Costa Rica, a friend of mine and I worked together to teach parents that setting limits could be done in a more positive and constructive way than how it was done a long time ago, when we were growing up. Fast forward ten years, I’m living in Guatemala and I start to learn about a systematic approach that puts all this thinking into a set of practices and principles that guide this setting of limits. This particular approach is based on several ideas, including setting up an environment where everyone feels safe and helpful. I’ve got to be honest, it hasn’t been easy, and it sometimes felt a little frustrating. However, I finally saw the light a few days ago.
During independent small group work, one of the girls in my grade 1 class got frustrated and started to cry. After a bit of inquiry, we found out that none of her classmates was listening to what she had to say, so she felt ignored. We all went outside to have a conversation about the situation. In the past, we would have talked about how their actions made the other person feel. However, using this new approach, we had all kids reflect on the following questions: a) Do you think that with your actions you were helpful? b) Did you make the person feel safe? This second question might seem a little bit strange, but think about it. If a person feels ignored, then this person does not feel accepted, and when a person doesn’t feel that people accept them, they feel insecure, which may lead to the person feeling unsafe as well. When kids understood this, their perspectives completely changed! The ball fell into their hands when they realized that their jobs are to help everyone in our community feel accepted so that they can feel safe.