I’m here to talk to you today about the importance of:
Saying How you Feel and Asking for What you Need.
This is something I teach students in my parkour classes every day and I feel it’s a really important skill kids (and adults) have to develop. Often, as caregivers, we see a need in a child and we understand what’s going on, so we then go over and fix the problem. Let’s take a moment to dive a little deeper into that. If we were to do that, what opportunity are we giving the child towards becoming independent? Well, the truth is, we’re not. We need to understand that when a child has a problem, we need to be able to sit back and wait for them to come and bring the problem to us (provided the problem isn’t something that might cause them to get severely injured).
In my parkour classes, I set up challenges that will scare kids and I tell them “Today, we are going to be working on saying how we feel and asking for what we need.” There’s a thing called neurolinguistic programming. This means if you pair an action with a new piece of information, it’s more likely that you’ll retain the information. For example: when you meet somebody new, you could hold your finger or put your finger on your nose and say their name. You now remember holding your nose and that’ll make it easier to remember their name.
The reason why I teach kids that it’s important to say how they feel and ask for what they need is because I want them to admit to the feelings that they are experiencing in the moment.
Everybody has negative feelings and very often we are trying to hide them from others. Therefore we end up feeling isolated in having those feelings, even though they are all shared, but unspoken.
Before I teach this to kids, no one in the class for the most part wants to admit that they’re afraid. There seems to be this display of weakness to admit that you were afraid amongst a group of people which we can all relate to.
We wonder, “What are they going to think of me if I am afraid?”. What they haven’t realized yet is that because we all share these feelings, it is brave to admit, especially in front of a group of people, that you have these fearful moments. So to help teach this I set up these fear challenges in my parkour class. For example, walking across the beams: I set up a high block or a couple of high blocks. I put a beam across the top and have kids walk across the top. For a lot of them, especially when they’re little, they’re scared and sometimes I even tell them to close their eyes and walk across the top. Then they start to say, “Wow, that’s scary. The beam is very high.” I say, “I know, but I’m not going to let you get hurt. I know that it’s scary because that’s the point. I want you to feel the fear. More importantly, I want you to tell me how you feel and ask for what you need. If you can say in a group of people and you can advocate for yourself about how you feel then you’re able to get what you need because you can say, I am scared. I need help.”
If a kid can learn how to advocate for themselves, they are going to become more independent. Therefore we are doing better jobs as caregivers, because we’re not stepping in to solve their problems. We’re giving them tools to become independent, to become successful in their own lives. Which I think in the end, being a parent or a caregiver is to give them the tools to be successful in their life.
By teaching them to say how they feel and ask for what they need, they’re going to be empowered to say, “I’m scared. I need help.” “I’m hungry. I need to eat.” “I’m tired, I need to rest.” — as simple as that. It’s so gratifying when I watch my students start saying how they feel and then progress into asking for what they need. It starts a virtuous cycle, because they get what they need, they progress faster and are encouraged to do it again next time they need help.
The other benefit to this is that if kids freely express how they feel in a group setting, they don’t feel alone anymore and they feel it’s okay to have and share those feelings. The sooner they understand that, the sooner that they can feel empowered to control their own emotions and then their behaviors.
I hope you find this helpful. Please reach out with any comments or questions you may have. We want to empower kids to take on the world and make it a better place and know that we can only achieve this goal as a community!