Reflecting On These “Crippling Behaviours” As A Teacher

As the Winter Break comes to an end, I can’t help but think of an article that I read earlier on during the holiday that’s been on my mind ever since. On December 23rd, my previous vice principal, Kristi, shared this Forbes article on 7 Crippling Parent Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders.

As Kristi suggested in her tweet, I shared this article with parents, but I also started to think about the words in it as a teacher. Was I engaging in these same “crippling” behaviours?

1. We don’t let our children experience risk.

I know that I try to allow students to take some risks in the classroom: attempting difficult challenges, reflecting on their ideas, and trying again. But when students start to get frustrated or when they ask for help, I’m usually quick to jump in. It’s always a balancing act between letting them problem-solve on their own, and giving them support so that they don’t give up. Now I wonder how I can let the students take more risks and work through the frustrations that sometimes come with doing so.

2. We rescue too quickly.

This aligns with my point above. I like to let the students work through problems, but when they ask for help, I’m almost always there right away. I try to ask questions like, “What might you do?,” or say things like, “I’m not sure. How could we solve this problem?” When the student requests are accompanied by tears, anger, or frustration though, I’m way more likely to just offer a suggestion. Is this the right thing to do? What message am I giving students when I do so? I wonder if we need to let students work through more of these emotions on their own and resist the urge to “rescue,” even when it seems like the right thing to do.

3. We rave too easily.

I know that I’m guilty of this. I just get so excited when students learn to do something that they couldn’t do before – be it write a sentence on their own, sound out a word, or solve a math problem. It’s hard to resist the cries of, “Good job,” or “Wow, way to go!” But I know that these words stop the thinking process. I know that these words don’t encourage further learning. How do we celebrate student successes while also pushing learning forward?

4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well.

I’m not sure that this happens quite as much in the classroom, but sometimes, I do feel guilty. I worry that I spent more time with one child, or gave another child an opportunity that I didn’t give the rest of the class. So sometimes I do make promises to others. Sometimes – even though I’m not a fan of extrinsic rewards – I offer them because of this guilt. How do we teach children to always feel that internal drive to work, learn, and lead? Are there times when our approaches might change, and how do we know that we should make these changes?

5. We don’t share our past mistakes.

I was guilty of this one for the longest time. Hey, I was the teacher. I needed to know everything. How could I tell students that I struggled with this too? When I started teaching junior grades a couple of years ago, I was better at sharing my own struggles with students. Maybe it was because they were older, and I felt as though I could connect with them more. And sometimes, admitting that I found the content difficult, helped students express their own difficulties with it. But I think that as teachers, we need to be careful about this one. How do we share our past mistakes, but without negatively influencing students against a particular subject or topic (e.g., I can’t do Math.)?

6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness, and influence for maturity.

I often think about this one as I write report cards. Sometimes students are so strong academically that we forget that their social behaviours may still align with those of their peers. They may have difficult solving problems on their own. They may interrupt others during play or class discussions. They may make the same mistakes that their classmates are making. But how is this possible? They’re so much stronger? Academic and social maturity are different though, and I constantly have to remind myself of this. How do you remember to keep this in mind?

7. We don’t practice what we preach.

I know that this would be different at school and at home, as at home, children are spending far more time watching you. And at school, we’re always in our classroom environments, where we tend to always act professionally. Kids are always watching and listening though. They observe our facial expressions. They hear what we say. They see how we interact with others. And without a doubt, they seem to always pay that much more attention when we wish that they didn’t. On certain days, at certain times, in certain situations, it can be difficult to always be that “role model,” but how do we ensure that we are? What message do we send to students when we aren’t?

And so, as I head back to school tomorrow, I’ll be thinking about these “crippling behaviours,” and what I do now and what I could do differently. Will I always remember to make the right choice? Probably not. But with this Forbes article and this blog post in mind, I’m going to try to get “uncomfortable” a little bit more, and make some choices that I didn’t make before. I want all of my students to grow up to be leaders, and I don’t want my choices to stop them from being so. Who’s with me? How do you avoid these “crippling behaviours,” whether at home or in the classroom? I’d love to hear about your approaches.


16 thoughts on “Reflecting On These “Crippling Behaviours” As A Teacher

  1. Wow you have me thinking. Guilty: to the rescue. Guilty: rave too easily Gulty #4: Sometimes when one child consumes so much time I feel that guilt, but know that child needs it so…The others just a little. LOL My mistakes are shared easily. My mantra with my kinders MISTAKES MEAN I AM TRYING.

    • Thanks Faige for sharing your own experiences! You’re right: mistakes mean that you are trying, and this is such a wonderful thing to share with your Kindergarten students. It’s something they’ll remember. I think that I am guiltier of some of these seven more than others, but I definitely have my moments. I’m hoping that by reflecting and thinking about these seven behaviours, I’ll be more aware of what I choose to do, and hopefully make some of these mistakes less often. I’m curious to see how this goes.


        • Thanks for the reply, Faige! You make a good point: we need to be kind to ourselves too. We may not be perfect, but everyday, we try, reflect, and try again. Our continual quest for improvement is always important.


  2. Thank you for this. I don’t think I’ve come across another educator that took an article about parents and used it to reflect upon their own practices. It’s something we should all do.
    As I was once told, the things we dislike in others are often the traits we dislike in ourselves. I hope you share this blog with your VP and she shares it with other teachers. I’ll share it as well. What a great way to begin 2015!

    • Thanks so much for the lovely comment! I did tweet this blog post to my previous VP, Kristi, and also tweet it to my current principal and vice principal. While I totally support the ideas in this Forbes article, I can see how these “crippling parent behaviours” can also be ones that teachers engage in as well. I think it’s because we want our students to do well, we want to support them, and we want to create a positive learning environment, but how much support is too much support? How do we give our students more control over their learning, and how do we help them see the positives in failing, reflecting, and trying again? The long-term benefits are likely worth the short-term discomfort. I know that I’ll be thinking more about this Forbes article and this blog post as I start back at school again tomorrow, and I’m hoping that by being more cognizant of these behaviours, I can make some different choices in the coming months.


  3. I am guilty. I think the important piece is to recognize when you are guilty of these behaviours, and try to minimize them as much as possible. With kids who need more time, well that is what they need. If I have a student who needs more help with their reading then some others I am going to help them. I try not to feel guilty about that. It is because at that moment in time that is what that student needs. There are students in my class who work hard and I talk to them, but not as much as some. They understand because we talk about students needing different things at different times. Spending more time with some students can be detrimental but if it is what they need….

    • Thanks for the comment! Maybe spending more time with some students versus others isn’t detrimental. Maybe it comes down to what you said: “It’s what they need.” Not all students need the same amount of support. We may feel guilty about this, but it’s not a case of us not giving support to others: it’s a case of balancing various needs in order to meet all of them. Maybe these other students need more opportunities for independence and problem-solving with the help of their peers, and maybe with our additional support, we’ll help these struggling students increase their independence as well. In this particular case, I wonder if it’s that we need to “reframe the situation.” What do you think?


  4. What a wonderful post! I constantly need to be reminded of #6…I, too, rave too easily especially when the raving is over a student who struggles with much. I just want success so badly for that kiddo and for the kiddo to enjoy his/her success. As Libramlad stated…I will try to minimize those behaviors. Thanks again for the great post.

    • Thanks for the comment, Kathy, and the kind words. I find that I do the same thing. I think our intentions are good: we want to celebrate this student’s success and we want to continue to encourage this student that may usually struggle. How do we do this while keeping the “raving” in check? I wonder if it’s a case of the need to give specific feedback. What do you think? I’m still thinking about this one.


  5. I THINK I read the original column. Or I may have only started it because what bothers me about things like that are the choice of words – like “crippling”. Why not say “unwise”, “not helpful”, etc? Or frame it in a less judgemental, critical way. It just perpetuates the us vs them mentality that is the true crippling behaviour.
    That is why I so appreciated your response. By recognizing that teachers also do the ‘wrong’ thing when trying to do the ‘right’ thing, you acknowledged a kinship with the parents. We must remember that every parent sends their child to school wanting the best and welcomes them home with the same hope.

    • Thanks for the reply! You’re right here: word choice is key. Reading your comment, I can’t help but think of something that my Methods Professor taught me in the Faculty of Education: “Parents give us the best that they have.” Their children mean the world to them, and they want the best for their children. They also always try to do their best to support and encourage their children. I try to always remember this. It’s one of the reasons that I’m so passionate about “parent engagement.” We need to work together. And while I did share the initial post with parents, I did so by sharing that as a teacher, I find that the points could apply to me too. I gave a couple of examples in the email I sent, and then today’s blog post, was a follow up to that. I shared my post with parents as well. I’m very curious to hear what they have to say. I often think that teachers and parents have a lot in common, and ultimately, we all want what’s best for kids.


  6. Aviva,

    I have finally gotten time to reply to your post. There is so many similarities between parenting and teaching and we need to remember that. We have kids for six to seven hours in the day, sometime more if there is after school sports. We see kids as much as a parent does. This means that the same follies parents have the same we have. That being said Parenting/teaching is so hard…in fact I was thinking about blogging about this but don’t quite know how to put it into words. It is very easy to just do something that makes life easy. If my kid likes praise let’s give them praise (please don’t take this the wrong way, praise is always good for kids just not all the time). What I am trying to say is that we often do these things because it makes our life easier. As a teacher if a kid doesn’t get it, we Jump in and help. Let them have the answer, jump through hoops and then they replicate it and we move on. Or we ask questions that we already know the answers of because we just want to move on to independent work so they can practise. However, just like parenting I think we have to always reflect on what is the out come I am trying to produce? What type of person am I raising?

    For me my goal is to raise a child who is independent, critical and creative thinker. I want them to be kind, courteous and thinking about others. To always remember that someone loves them and they are to love everyone else in return. For this to happen, they have to make mistakes and learn from them. They have to explore, say the wrong things, experience what these values are and just not be told this is what to do. I think about my daughter all the time. She is having a rough go at school at the moment and my mother in law said, “No kid wants to be bad!” that really stuck with me because she is right, Iz doesn’t want to be bad she just doesn’t know what to expect. The times she does things are not bad things just learning opportunities. She needs to see that her mistakes are learning opportunities.

    I think to avoid doing these behaviours we may just need to reflect on who are we trying to create when the year is done. The biggest shift for me was thinking back to why do they just not get it? Well because they have never been made to! Something to ponder. Thanks for the thoughtful posts as always.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jonathan! I think you make some wonderful points here, and I really appreciate your insight as both a teacher and as a parent. Keeping our end goal in mind makes so much sense. It’s kind of like a focus on the positive. I still think some of these mistakes are easy to make, as we tend to make them because we care about the kids and want to make them happy and successful. I guess that the question becomes how are we independently helping them meet with this success? If we solve all problems for students, we take away this independence.

      Like you, I’m going to try to keep my “goal for students” at the forefront this term, and really try to learn from the mistakes I do make. Let’s see how this goes! 🙂


      • Very true. Sorry wasn’t implying that just because we do these that we don’t care. I think we do what is comfortable and its easy to do what is comfortable. I am as guilty of this as any. I think we just have to keep reminding ourselves about that end goal and instead of saying why don’t they get it or why aren’t they listening we think about how we are implementing our teaching.

        • Thanks for the reply, Jonathan! I don’t think that you were implying that at all. I guess I was just explaining why we may continue to make these mistakes. Keeping the end goal in mind though does make a lot of sense, and I think could really help. It’s what I’m going to try to do as we start back tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll be sharing how things go. 🙂


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