Encourage Children’s Personality Instincts, Don’t Destroy Them
Every preschool has them – The Class Boss, The Talker, The Climber, The Sensitive Child – and each of them have instinctive personality traits that will serve them well. Teachers and parents can either encourage their talents or squash them. I am always intrigued by the natural inclination of young children and saddened when I see people trying to put them into a mold that serves no other purpose than to make adult lives easier.
I often tell people that I was The Talker. Actually, I think I was more of The Communicator. I have a natural impulse to communicate in whatever way I am able. When I was young, I was often reprimanded in school for speaking too much. When I got a little older, I passed notes in class. I eventually learned when I should share my thoughts and when I should wait. As a teacher, I gently remind The Talker when it is another person’s turn to speak. I always make sure, though, that The Talker’s thoughts are eventually shared. I will admit, even at my age, that the urge to whisper in movie theaters or religious services and text while attending seminars still can be irresistible. I also have an overwhelming urge to find the teachers who were so exasperated with me and let them know that today I get paid to communicate. I write, lecture and give speeches. I teach adults and children. Sharing my thoughts and knowledge are my livelihood.
I admire The Climber. The Climber has a physical coordination that I lack. The Climber is fearless. Years ago, I was teaching a group of 3 year olds and one girl was a particularly quick and talented climber. She could scale a chair, table and toy cabinet before I could even give a verbal reminder that we need to stay on the floor to be safe. I asked her parents if she climbed at home and they said, “Yes. We can’t figure out what to do so we moved much of our furniture to the basement and garage.” They were relieved when she was old enough to understand that climbing on everything might not be the best policy in every situation. Much to their credit, they gave her plenty of climbing time in playgrounds. They also enrolled her in gymnastics. I wonder if anyone has ever asked world class gymnasts if they were preschool climbers.
The Class Boss has a confidence and bold personality that it takes other people years to develop. The Class Boss organizes the other children, sets the rules and can get everyone to follow along. They are natural leaders. The Class Boss is one of the best reasons to have a multi-age environment in educational settings. When the leader is shown how to mentor, their instincts can be nurtured. I have taught many a Class Boss and am amused when I learn that they grow to be student club or council leaders.
My heart goes out to The Sensitive Child. The Sensitive Child reacts emotionally to most situations. Transitions, social interactions and other challenges can easily cause frustration and tears. But oh, can those children laugh when something is funny and hug so tightly when someone needs it! The Sensitive Child develops empathy easily when guided well. They watch other children react emotionally and can relate when we take a moment to discuss feelings. Emotions and feelings should be discussed often and not as an incidental moment in an otherwise busy day. When children have words to describe their emotions and understand the physicality of their feelings, they become better able to control them. It is one thing to have self-control but another to discourage children from feeling what they feel. We need to see The Sensitive Child as impassioned by the world. Imagine if we fostered them to play empathetic roles or to champion causes instead of wondering why they aren’t tougher.
Part of being an intentional teacher or an intentional parent is thinking about how we act and react to children. We need to think about how we can guide them and help channel their natural instincts. While I wonder if The Climber becomes The Gymnast, I also wonder if the squelching of those natural tendencies deprives the world of amazing talent. Think about the children in your care. The leader, the extrovert, the introvert, the one who observes before jumping in – they are all filled with greatness.
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Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
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