It was bound to happen, sooner or later. This week I presented at a conference, and as is often the case, I offered a short keynote and four breakout sessions. The day went well. The content flowed, participants looked happy, and everything went off without a hitch – or at least so I thought. After the final session a participant approached me. “I really enjoyed this session on games for teaching social skills,” she said, “but I thought this one was about how we can encourage independence in young children.” At which point, I paused…checked the program…and gasped. Yep – I presented a completely different topic than what was advertised.
“Did you not know you were supposed to present the session on independence?” a fellow presenter asked me. “No,” I replied. “I did know. And not only did I know, but I also told participants about the upcoming topic several times throughout the day.” Unfortunately, I forgot. You see, at almost all early childhood conferences I’m asked to present my games session at the end of the day because of the high energy of the content – however, not for this conference. So what happened? I stopped thinking for one second, and it just took that one second for my brain to go into auto-pilot mode and reflexively do what it had always done.
When it comes to dealing with difficult behaviors, perhaps we should all take a step back and be a bit more patient. Individuals might know exactly what they are supposed to do – but that doesn’t mean it is easy for them to do. When we exhibit behaviors repetitively, they become habits – and breaking habits is very hard. So, my apologies to the participants who thought they were attending my session on independence. I’ll try to do better at the next conference in Austin tomorrow, but as I learned this week, it’s probably best if I don’t make any promises.