In April, I wrote an article entitled “Do Your Rules Make Sense?” (http://cindyterebush.blogspot.com/2012/04/do-your-rules-make-sense.html). I challenged adults to think about the rules they impose on young children. Telling people to let children mix the Play Doh and peel the crayons made sense to many while stating that the words “I’m sorry” are meaningless to children caused much internet controversy. I was surprised at the number of people offended by the thought that the social convention of using those two words was actually meaningless to young children. My blog gets an average of 9,000 page views per month and that article is ranked 3rd in number of all-time views. Since posting that article, people have asked what other rules I would add to that list. Here is my next (but I suspect not my last) list of rules that make little or no sense when imposed upon young children:
“You can’t climb up the slide.” Actually, you can. In fact, climbing up a sturdy slide helps to exercise leg muscles and build coordination. Children are also forced to concentrate more as they need to be cautious about slipping. I understand not interrupting the flow of traffic headed down the slide and I recommend children be spotted when attempting the uphill climb. Perhaps this rule should really be “One way only on the slide.” Either all the children go up or go down but to say they “cannot” – it isn’t true and eliminates a strengthening activity.
“You must share.” Do adults share everything? I, for one, don’t offer my friends use of my wallet, my tablet or my new car. Those are my prized possessions. I don’t sit with every book I read and offer to read it together. Some things are just mine and sometimes I want to complete an activity alone. Young children have the same needs and more. They are more egocentric than adults and need to fully possess things before they can let someone else use it next. Young children need quiet time to do things alone as much as adults need that time. They also need to learn that not every item is theirs for the taking. Adults can say, “She doesn’t feel like sharing that now. Maybe you can use it later” or “He needs a little alone time.” It helps teach others about reading verbal & non-verbal clues and respecting each other’s needs. Sometimes we share. Sometimes we do not. That is real life.
“You must be in a single file, straight line to travel from one place to another.” One of the most unnatural things we ask preschoolers to do is to line up. Lining up is so hard. It means standing in one spot and not touching anything. It is the opposite of every instinct that a young child possesses. Young children need to be moving and using their senses. Then, we tell them that they have to be in this line to move down the hall. Actually, you can move down the hall in a group and move over for anyone trying to get by your happy little crowd. It is quite possible that it will take a lot less time, anxiety and energy to occasionally just go down the hallway in a clump.
Think about the things you ask young children to do at home or at school. From a child’s perspective and as part of the real world, do they make sense?
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