Children live in a world in which they often have little control. Rules abound. Some rules are for their safety. Some are to ensure good health. Rules can be the only thing standing between us and utter chaos. Sometimes, however, rules we impose on children have no real purpose and impede their creativity. As the Director of Schools at Temple Shalom of Aberdeen, it is my job to determine which rules are important and which rules make no sense. Think about what we impose on children when we say:
- “Don’t mix the Play Doh.” - Why? Why can’t children mix the Play Doh? For some reason, adults have decided that the Play Doh must stay segregated – one color per can. After all, if we mix it how will we know which lid to put on the can? Think about how much children learn when they mix the Play Doh. They learn that when you combine colors, you get a different color. They learn that the consistency won’t change even though the color does. At The Early Learning Center of Temple Shalom, we mix the Play Doh. I admit it. I am that crazy school director who has banned the “Don’t Mix the Play Doh Rule.” The children still enjoy using the substance. When it dries out, which it do anyway, we simply replace it. No harm done.
- “Don’t peel the paper off of the crayon.” – Why? Why does the crayon have to have a wrapper? The ability of the crayon to be used for coloring is not impeded by the lack of a wrapper. Chances are that the children using the crayons are not reading the name of the color. They are looking at the crayon to determine if it is or is not the color they need. The wrapper is really an advertisement to help adults remember which company produced the crayon. It is a means of keeping their brand in the forefront of your mind. Keep the wrapper. Peel the wrapper. It really doesn’t matter because the crayon still works.
- “You must say ‘I’m sorry’” – What do the words “I’m sorry” mean? What impact does it have on a child when they are forced to use those words? I submit that the words “I’m sorry” are meaningless to young children. Those two words are actually far less meaningful than asking a child to say that they will not do something again. If a child pushes a friend, it is important to discuss how pushing can hurt someone. Rather than say “I’m sorry,” ask the child to tell the friend that he/she will not push again. If a child grabs a toy from a friend, it is more meaningful to ask the child to say, “I will not take the toy from you again.” Even as adults we admit that once you do something offensive, “I’m sorry” doesn’t take it back and it doesn’t repair the damage. Teaching children to think about their behavior will be a lesson that will last much longer than the use of two words that lack substance. I do agree that use of these words is a social convention that is hard to avoid. If you do feel that your child should say “I’m sorry,” be sure to add the expected behavior to the statement. I’m sorry. I will make the next paragraph shorter.
When teaching children in a classroom or interacting with your children at home, take the time to consider the adult concepts we impose on our youth. Rules should have a logical reason for existing. They should help children make sense of their world. Do the rules you impose ensure health, safety and make sense?
Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
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