There’s glue all over the table, water color spilling to the floor, crayons lost amongst it all. One child is squeezing all of the paint out of the bottle while another is making lines up and down her arms with a green marker. It’s about 10 am in the toddler room at The Nest. Our dedicated art time would almost look like a free-for-all to an outsider but we teachers see serious work happening.
A new parent at a recent enrollment meeting shared some sage advice that her pediatrician gave her: it is the parent’s responsibility to choose the food for their child and it is the child’s responsibility to decide whether to eat it or not. This simple yet brilliant advice can seem daunting for even the most savvy parents to follow consistently. How did our society get so far off the mark in handling one of our most basic human necessities? (If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the documentary, FED UP for the eye-opening and historical answer to this question.) Although the decks are clearly stacked against us and our children, we need to regain our position as the adults that choose the food for our children. All of us at Alphabet Academy know from experience that children, regardless of how picky they have become, will eat if we all just relax and give them time that they need.
As I expressed in my last article, being an emotionally responsive parent is much more challenging than being an emotionally responsive teacher. Accepting my daughter’s range of emotions within our daily routines comes with its challenges, as does embracing the multiple facets of her personality. Encouraging Maeve to express her emotions in safe ways, as well as modeling how to treat others kindly and respectfully will produce far-reaching benefits. As I encourage my daughter’s social-emotional development, I am laying the groundwork for her success with peers, her self-confidence, her intellectual gains and her ability to problem-solve. The question remains, “How do I move this philosophy from the classroom into the home?”
A new school year and the transition from one classroom to the next gives caregivers, families, and all of our little ones the chance to build upon what we know. As parents and teachers, we can reflect on the past year, assess our priorities, and set goals. This is a time of change; there are new relationships to be established and deepened, trust to be earned, questions and concerns to bring to the table, much to learn.
It is not uncommon for parents to ask, “Why does he listen to you and not me?” or for them to ask a teacher to handle a conflict for them because they know that the teacher is able to get their child to follow through. As educators, we are taught to handle behaviors in a very specific way to achieve the desired outcome. We work in an environment conducive to dealing with these behaviors and we don’t have all of the distractions that families have on a daily basis. What’s the secret? Set firm limits within a supportive, loving relationship, to eliminate power struggles and start seeing your child behave “appropriately” in any situation. Although children are likely to test limits, once they learn that you say what you mean and mean what you say, the testing will become much less frequent. Below are some scenarios to get you thinking about how you may handle issues in the past, present, or future.