There is always a reason for a child’s behaviour and it is our job as their caregivers to uncover where it’s coming from; to always be trying to understand it within the context of each individual child.Written by Ana Cassidy, Early Childhood Educator & Author
No two children have the same exact experience in any given situation. Once you get to know each child, you understand where their behaviour stems from. Each one is unique and as such, they all react to any given situation differently. Some children thrive on adult attention and will often seek us out to play with them one-on-one. Others may have us rescue them from a situation they don’t yet have the confidence they can solve for themselves. We, of course, are always better off guiding them through their challenges as opposed to just solving them for them.
In this particular case, a little boy by the name of Jack tends to typically seek me out for all of the above. My goal here was to help him break this pattern; to allow him to feel safe and secure within himself while still sensing my presence close-by. While making this tricky transition, I remained focused on not allowing Jack to dominate me in our play. I was able to accomplish this – supportively – by not focusing on our play, but rather, on the fact that there were other possible playmates close-by who would love to join him in my place. I just had to figure out how to set this up in the most supportive way for Jack.
By taking the time to really consider the child’s nature, I was able to approach this tricky situation in a way that did not feel to him like I was brushing him off. Rather, my actions showed him that I was helping him and not rejecting him. Even though he initially wanted me to play with him, I would not have had his best interest at heart if I had just continued. This would have neither helped Jack to build his confidence, nor would it have strengthened his ability to make new friends – two important opportunities we should always be looking for as Early Childhood Educators.
This is also a very common mistake that us teachers make. Too often, we end up here, becoming one child’s exclusive playmate. One teacher playing with just one child when we are responsible for an entire group of any size, is not an ideal situation and is not justified just because one child asks for it.
The words we choose when guiding a child such as Jack towards this change is equally as important as our actions. For example, when one child is trying to monopolize your time and attention, it’s important to not say something like, “I can’t play with you because I’m working,” or “…because I’m the only teacher in the room,” as this is very negative. Instead, in my redirection, I used POSITIVE LANGUAGE & ACTIONS by involving another child and asking him a question to draw him into our play. By doing this, I was able to introduce Jack to something exciting that he could enjoy in his play – a new playmate – instead of focusing on something I was about to take away something from his play – which was me.
Whatever strategy you choose to use in this scenario, the overall goal should be to get Jack to interact with his peers and to take the attention off of the child-adult relationship while at the same time, protecting his feelings and keeping everything positive, light, and playful. This is the perfect example of how the PRESENTATION OF INFORMATION is key towards supporting positive growth in young children.
Ana is very excited to be offering her advice to parents and Early Childhood Educators using her philosophy, practices and also, by sharing her special language and techniques in her professional development workshop series, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LANGUAGE.
If you have any questions for Ana that you would like her to answer in this column, please direct them to our Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Questions for Teacher Ana. You will hopefully find her answers in the near future right here in her column, It’s All About The Language.