When Louder and Closer Isn’t Better

I have worked with young children for a long time and have always been fascinated by their reactions to adult behavior.  Children seem to have an instinct about who they can trust and who they cannot.  Adults often remark to each other that even very young children just seem to know which adults are good with children.  A level of comfort, security and trust doesn’t just happen. As with any of us, first impressions matter.  I am convinced that it’s all in the approach.

Louder and closer is not better.  Have you ever been at a party and been backed into a corner by a close talker?  Have you ever wanted to tell the loud talker that there is no reason to yell?  Adults are so uncomfortable in these situations because the non-verbal communication clues are all wrong.  A person who has mastered non-verbal communication knows that everyone has a personal space that shouldn’t be invaded.  That person also knows that people are offended and intimidated by voices that are too loud.  If adults are uncomfortable with a loud or close talker, why do we think children would be drawn to it?

Stand back.  Speak softly.  Smile and look approachable but let young children come to you.  You may notice that early childhood classrooms rarely have adult size chairs.  The adults sit in the small chairs to bring us to the child’s eye level.  When we stand upright or sit on adult chairs, we look huge to them.  We are less intimidating when we squat down to their size – squat, sit but not bend over at the waist.  Adults who work with very young children know that we need to make ourselves more compact in order to encourage the children to feel comfortable.  We also need to respect their personal space and sensitivity to loud noise.

When a young child approaches you, stop talking.  Smile.  Put your hand out to see if he/she will hand their toy to you and then silently hand it back.  Say hello and use the child’s name.  Smile and wait.  If the child backs away, stay where you are and remember that it is about the child’s comfort and not about your ego.   Encouraging children to feel comfortable is not a competition.  And if it were, slow and steady would win the race.



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Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
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