As counselors, we’re always looking for ways to improve student success. We want to set them up for academic success now and for interpersonal success in the future. And one of the best ways to help our students is to teach them how to adjust, pivot, and develop flexible thinking skills.
This article will give you a new vantage point on flexible thinking so you can help your students build their ability to think differently.
What is Flexible Thinking
How many times have you heard someone say, “think outside the box?”
Well, in a way, that’s what it means to think flexibly.
Youngsters, and even adults for that matter, often attach to an idea of how they envision something to turn out.
But when that moment arrives, and reality doesn’t live up to expectations, frustration can manifest itself through anger or bad behavior.
Instead, teaching children to switch gears and take lemons and make lemonade helps them manage their expectations. Students will learn to pivot when something isn’t going their way which encourages flexible thinking.
How to Teach Flexible Thinking Everyday
Stumped on how you can get into the minds and help your students become more flexible?
No worries, here’s a few ideas to help you bring flexibility to your counseling toolkit (and it’s much easier than you think)!
1. Teach Them to Talk it Out…To Themselves
Watch for a moment of frustration, when students are feeling disappointed or limited by an outcome or situation. In other words, something just didn’t go their way today.
Then, take the moment to teach them about self-talk and help them find gratitude for the new possibilities before them.
Ask your students to have a conversation, in their heads, about the problem they are facing. Then ask your student to provide you with an alternative.
If students are distraught, it could also be the perfect time to practice a moment of mindfulness.
2. Teach Flexible Thinking Activities and Offer Options
This flexible thinking tip is uber easy! Here goes…
If you have the opportunity to give students more than one option for an activity or game, do so.
Rather than always providing a strict, linear, plan allow students to use their heads and make decisions about how their day is organized.
This allows them to break free of the zombie-like trance that goes hand-in-hand with rigid routines and gives them the opportunity to use their flexible thinking muscles.
Teachers offer “choice boards” for student work, so why not try a counseling choice board in your next small group or whole group lesson? These mindful breathing choice cards are a fun way to start any lesson and offer flexibility.
3. Break the Rules
Well, sort of.
For this tip, simply choose a game that your students enjoy playing regularly, and intentionally change how the game is played.
In other words, break the rules.
Students who like rules, depend on them, and always remind others about the rules will be a little uncomfortable.
This is ok. It teaches them to think outside the box, adjust their expectations, and learn how to make room for change.
4. Double Booked
Suppose your students have regular day-to-day routines in the classroom. Day in and day out, everything is exceptionally predictable for them.
If that’s the case, you can unexpectedly switch things up.
For example, pretend you’ve double-booked an activity or announce that something students were looking forward to fell through.
Then, have a plan to talk it out, and ask students to help you develop a solution. The goal is to lead students to uncover an alternative activity that is just as fun.
If you have to lead them to something, that’s ok too. The point is to manage the moment of frustration, loss, and help them see that the unexpected can be a good thing.
It also gives them ownership over the moment, the ability to switch gears, become more flexible, and also use their critical thinking skills to come up with a solution that may be even better than the original expectation.
Teaching students that they can take lemons and make lemonade will help them learn to be less rigid, more accepting, and successful when life doesn’t go as planned. If you want even more resources for helping students who get stuck in negative thinking patterns, I have got you covered! Try some flipbooks, digital Google Classroom lessons, interactive brochures, Boom Cards and much more.
You’ve got this!