Intentions are lofty goals. We intend to do no harm. We intend to be the most understand parents, caregivers and educators. We intend to be patient and nurturing as we impart all of our wisdom and knowledge. But, alas, we are human and, while some intentions come to fruition, others do not. I lecture about being an intentional teacher and parent. In workshops, we work together to understand being intentional and to set realistic goals. We have to let go of our agenda and discover what interests our children in order to use that information to help them to expand their own knowledge. Sound complicated? Here are a few things that you can set as your intentional parenting or educational goals as we start a new school year:
- Listen. You are hearing the children but are you really listening? Children really do say the most amazing things. Their statements and questions are important clues as to what matters to them and what peeks their interest. Often, their statements seem random and we don’t capitalize on them. A child might say, “A zebra has stripes” and the adults confirm that is true. The adults say, “Yes they do” and that usually ends that. We need to consider why the child told us this fact. The interest in the zebra can be explored. Is the child interested in animals? Should we go somewhere to see animals? A trip to a farm or zoo has so many educational components. As we look at the animals, we can count, sort, classify, learn about different cultures & places…One trip to animals expands their entire world.
- Watch. Adults have a tendency to want to jump into whatever the children are doing. Stop. Watch. Observe. How are the children interacting? What are they pretending? Children learn about the world through pretend. They act like the adults they see in order to discover what power feels like. They negotiate rules of play, become leaders, followers, dogs, cats. That dog and cat stage always fascinates me. Inevitably, children at ages 3-4 start crawling around the floor barking, meowing and wanting to be petted. They desperately want to know what it is like to garner that attention when you can’t speak. I see that as a sign that it is time to read some books about pets and feelings in general during group time. It’s also a great time to introduce something to care for in a classroom or home. A plant, a goldfish – anything to help clarify how we care for other living things.
- Wait. What problems are they trying to solve? The block tower keeps falling down. There is an easy solution. Put the larger blocks at the bottom. Don’t tell them. Ask what they should do if the same thing keeps happening but don’t tell them. They are building the tower because they want it to be tall and stand independently. They will figure it out. When they do, they will have discovered some of the most basic laws of science. They will never forget them. Just wait.
- Teach. Everything is a teaching opportunity – especially behavior. B.F. Skinner, the world renowned psychologist & behaviorist, taught us that the only thing that children learn from being punished is to avoid punishment. You were a teenager. Think about it. Truer words were never spoken. When children are young, we don’t want them to just learn to avoid punishment. We want them to learn why their actions were inappropriate. They are egocentric and do not consider how their actions can impact other people. As a school director and early childhood educator, I am often in a situation where a toy is grabbed or a child is hit or kicked. The child who caused the encounter will cry when it is clear that the adults are not happy but often cannot state what he/she did wrong. We need to point out that getting hit, kicked or otherwise treated poorly hurts. Children need to be taught how to respect property and each other. I remember once hearing a parent say, “Do I need to spell this out for you?” Yes – yes you do.
When I had children, I intended to raise responsible, empathetic, politically aware adults who are hard workers and contribute to society. When I teach, I intend to encourage independence, self-confidence and a love of learning. None of that happens by chance. Take a few minutes to consider your intentions as a parent or educator. Then, make them happen.
Read this blog for more articles. Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - www.helpingkidsachieve.com
Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights ReservedPlease do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission. You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.