How many times have you felt frustrated with the actions of a child that you work with, or your very own child?
If you are a parent, you know all too well that feeling of embarrassment when you child does something that isn’t necessarily the best choice, especially when they harm another child. As a teacher, I witness children being ‘mean’ to one another daily (not in my class of course, because they have already been Savini-ized).
It’s very easy to feel frustrated when you see a child making a choice that is harmful to another child, but what are you going to do about it?
Children look to us for guidance. They often steamroll through life and honestly don’t stop to think about their actions. In their world, they are the only entity that exists in the moment. This, can be a wonderful thing, but also harmful if they are not aware of those around them.
I believe in teaching children to be independent and interdependent at the same time. Building a child’s self esteem is critical in their early years, but it is just as important to teach them to care. You see, we often think that compassion is something natural, but for many it simply isn’t.
If you want children to display compassion, kindness, and empathy, you need to be willing to teach them.
About a month ago, I distinctly remember an incident with one of my students that illustrates this point. Michael is like any typical boy, high energy and single pointedly focused. It was time for him to leave the room for his reading class, and he was in a bit of a hurry to get out the door (as all children usually are somehow motivated to be first in line). As he was steamrolling through the classroom, he knocked another child down. The other child hit their shoulder and was a bit distraught. I caught the end of this incident, but was immediately drawn to respond when I saw the reactions of the others students in my classroom. As Michael went barreling by, and the other child fell to the ground, he didn’t even turn to stop and look. Instead, he simply kept rolling along. I said, “Whoa, Michael, stop!” He turned and looked at me, just like every other child in that room. My initial knee jerk reaction would be to scold this child, but for some reason, on this day, I took a deep breath and realized that this was a monumental teaching point. I got down on one knee and said, Michael, stop and take a look at Jimmy. He is hurt. Do you know how he got hurt?” Michael responded, “Well, I know, but I have to get to reading.” At this point, you can feel the anxiety as you are reading this story. Again, I had to take a deep breath to be sure I was responding to the situation instead of reacting to it. If I were reacting, I might say something like this, Michael that is very inconsiderate of you! How would you like it if someone knocked you on the ground and then didn’t even stop to see if YOU were okay? That’s mean, mean mean!” Instead, I kept my cool and responded with, “Michael, when we hurt someone, even when we are trying our best to get somewhere, it is always important to stop and ask them if they are ok, apologize, and then help them if they need help. If you were the one knocked over and the other person kept going, what would that feel like?” Michael responded with, “Bad. It would dim my light.” I then interjected with, “and how could we brighten Jaxson’s light right now?” Michael immediately went to Jimmy and apologized and asked him if he was ok. My heart smiled as I turned to the class to make sure they all understood the lesson.
A few weeks later another child bumped into Michael while rushing out the door (because, you know, being first in line is super important, even thought we already have line leaders for the week), and a little girl in my class said, “Hey, did you ask if they were okay?” Again, my heart smiled…
Today, instead of reacting to a situation, respond. Understand that if we want our children to be independent and interdependent, we need to teach them to care.
PS This is also a really good lesson for adults…Have you been in the stores lately with Holiday shopping…Holy Cannoli!
Lots of Love,