Leadership Commonwealth School

The Four Basic Skills

We desire to create a positive, safe environment with a close knit “tribal” community of happy, trusted, compassionate, forgiving friends.

At Commonwealth, we practice the Four Basic Skills (as taught by Nicholeen Peck at teachingselfgovernment.org), a part of which includes the ability to Stay Calm in any situation. It takes self-control, but is achievable for all.

Here are the Four Basic Skills, all of which are carried out with the intent of preserving and strengthening relationships and not damaging them, and with a feeling of warmth, love and connection. Keeping CALM is of utmost importance during all interactions with others.

Following Instructions

The steps to following an instruction are:

  1. Look at the person (make eye contact).
  2. Keep a calm voice, face, and body.
  3. Say “okay” or disagree appropriately. 
  4. Do the task immediately.
  5. Check back. (Report to a parent/mentor that you did the instruction and you may politely ask if there is anything more? This step can be a little different in other situations, such as being told by a mentor to play quietly.)

Accepting “No Answers” and/or Criticism

The steps to accepting a no answer are:

  1. Look at the person (make eye contact).
  2. Keep a calm voice, face, and body.
  3. Say “okay” or disagree appropriately.
  4. Drop the subject.

Accepting Consequences

The steps to accepting a consequence are:

  1. Look at the person (make eye contact).
  2. Keep a calm voice, face, and body. 
  3. Say “okay” or disagree appropriately. 
  4. Do the consequence.
  5. Drop the subject.

Disagreeing Appropriately

The steps to disagreeing appropriately are:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Keep a calm voice, face and body.
  3. Say the other person’s opinion (“I know you…or I understand that you…”)
  4. Say your opinion.
  5. Listen to the decision / reply and accept it. 
  6. Drop the subject.

One of the overarching principles behind the Four Basic Skills is that people have a CHOICE about how they act and feel. It helps you to recognize that in between when you have a thought or witness something happen and the moment that you respond, you have power to make a choice about how you feel and respond. It truly is possible for us to reach a level of governing the self such that we are able to choose calmness at all times, to choose happiness at all times, even if it takes a little time to process making that choice and to get ourselves calm, we can do it without damaging relationships if we get into the habit of recognizing when we aren’t calm / happy and removing ourselves from the situation in order to get calm and happy or at least peaceful.

The Four Basic Skills cover most behavioral problems. It’s really amazing how many situations they apply to.

We need to be able to Follow Instructions at all ages – from a boss, from ourselves and from God, or our Conscience. In a family, a child’s role is to learn to obey and govern themselves well. A parent’s role is to give guidance, example, correction and instruction. Children who learn to obey loving parents will be happier adults who obey God and their conscience.

Stubbing your toe is a “no answer,” or something you don’t prefer. So is being bullied, having a loved one fall ill, or losing your car keys. Standing to give a presentation might be a “no answer” for some people. The boundary of not invading someone’s space is a “no answer.” So is a rule about not running in the parking lot.

Accepting criticism (which is hopefully given in a spirit of love and helpfulness) can be an essential skill for children to master, as they often are receiving correction from mentors and parents and even siblings or older peers.

 

We must be able in life to not only accept consequences, but to begin to anticipate them before we make a choice. Life is filled with cause and effect. Unfortunately, some of the negative consequences of bad choices take a while to manifest. Teaching children that a consequence quickly follows a choice and helping them make the connection between their choices and those consequences helps them in adult life to think through their choices and avoid negative outcomes.

One of life’s most essential skills is how to disagree appropriately – with parents, children, spouses, bosses, co-workers, friends, mentors, everyone. And not just with people, but with situations, circumstances, etc.

 

Reference Articles for Parents:

The Myth of the Teenager

Manipulation Kills Relationships

Corrective Teaching / Discipline at Commonwealth

As an example, a Corrective Teaching could follow these steps:

  1. Make certain you are calm and feeling loving feelings toward the child. Use your “spiritual eyes” and follow your *SayGoBeDo’s. (A SayGoBeDo is an impression you feel in your heart and mind from your conscience or Higher Power, telling you that you need to say something, go somewhere, be a certain way, or do a certain thing.)
  2. Be sure to respect the child’s privacy and avoid embarrassment by correcting in private or being as discreet as possible. If needed, quietly ask the child to step outside with you for a moment if disrespectful behavior is being repeated during class time.
  3. Describe what you observed. “Just now…” or “Earlier today, I noticed when you were having so much fun playing that game, you seemed to be getting a little frustrated that your friend could not come up with the right answer to your question. You called her a dummy and rolled your eyes.”
  4. Say what went wrong. “When your friend heard that, I saw her face fall and she just slumped down in her chair and seemed to be really hurt.”
  5. Say what should have happened. “When kids are playing together, they  need to be very careful that they don’t give others the impression that they think someone is dumb. When someone is taking a long time to give us an answer, and we feel frustrated, that is a “no answer” for us – it’s something we don’t prefer. You should stay calm when you get a no answer and remember that we always want to show love to our friends by being patient with them. I just wanted to make sure you understand that so you can have happy relationships with your friends.
  6. Give the consequence. “I need you to go over to your friend right now with me and tell her you’re sorry that you called her that name, okay?” (Okay)
  7. Praise for accepting the consequence. “I’m so proud of you for apologizing. I know that’s not always easy to do. Great job!”
  8. Give a positive motivational statement. “You’re such a good friend.”

 

Of course, sometimes there may not need to be a consequence if it’s more like a mini-mentor session where you are giving advice or possibly a warning about what might happen if their behavior continues, etc. Trust your intuition. It’s important, also that we as a community of parents, trust one another’s intuition and keep open communication about any incidents that happen concerning our children’s behavior and treatment of one another, remembering kindness and love and trusting in the goodness of others.  

At home, in a parenting environment, if this had happened between my children, I would actually have them practice the right way of handling the frustration. We would role-play the situation again and the person would practice being patient and calmly waiting while the other person came up with the answer. This level of correction will not be appropriate for Commonwealth School setting unless a parent is working with her own children and feels prompted to do so.

Other helpful words are “pleasant,” and “concern.” For example, I have a concern I’d like to discuss with you. It can be unpleasant for everyone else who is trying to listen and learn when you are being noisy with your legos. Will you please play with them quietly?

Parent to son/daughter corrections on campus are best handled discreetly and privately whenever possible. Keeping a calm environment is of utmost importance.

That said, mentors do need the ability to correct a child publicly while in class if a child is being distracting or disruptive. This should be done as discreetly and briefly as possible. See notes below under the section regarding in-class respect.

For older children, it will be helpful to review basic etiquette of how young people should act – especially around members of the opposite sex. A friendly hug is okay as long as both people know it is mutually friendly, or it might be taken in the wrong way as flirtatious. People have varying levels of comfort concerning their own personal space. Be deliberate in teaching your youth appropriate boundaries. Emotional boundaries are just as important – an eye roll, a playful nickname, name-calling that isn’t really meant to hurt one’s’ feelings – all are examples of behavior that can do harm to others, even if it’s unintentional. We encourage everyone to be positive in their speech at all times.

It may become necessary to remind students of the environment we are trying to create at Commonwealth. In the steps of the above Corrective Teaching, you could say in Step 4 (Say what went wrong) that when they are acting in a way that “damages relationships, creates anxiety, or is harmful to others in any way, whether emotionally, spiritually, or physically” they are not following the school rules or helping to create the positive environment we are striving for. 

 

Concerning in-class respect

During a Class Lecture/Teaching:

Mentors who are teaching may correct students by asking out loud for them to stop. If it doesn’t stop, then the other mentor in the room should try to stop it or take the child out and talk to them about it.

We all need to trust each other that if a parent is taking someone out for a talk that they had good reason.

We also need to inform one another of incidents as immediately as possible, preferably before leaving for the day or with a phone call afterwards.

We need to be sure that the co-teacher who is going to pull the child outside does it discreetly by coming up behind them and whispering for them to step outside with you. Please remember to use a calm loving tone and to be precise in describing what you’ve observed, following the same steps as above in doing a corrective teaching.

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