As I look around my house at the many, many unfinished projects (I am the queen of unfinished projects), I realize that I’ve been writing this blog for over a year. Yes, I’m not as consistent as I was, but hey, I’m still posting. (Do not wish me a happy “blogiversary”).
When you do something for a long time a few things result: you can get burned out, you figure out some “best way” to do it, or you fancy yourself and expert. I’ve been working in the “child care” field for over 12 years now. I have taken countless classes for this field, but I am constantly learning new things. I don’t fancy myself an expert. However, I have noticed that this industry has a huge problem. The best practices: the policies and actions that teachers are encouraged to do, are not really best practices. In fact in many cases the research says otherwise. Besides some of these misguided best practices, we find that teachers/educators/caregivers have this culture of action that is setting children up for a dim future.
Our job as parents/teachers/ caregivers/ educators is to help children learn and grow into successful adults, not to find the path of least annoyance. I understand with a ton of children in a class, it’s faster and easier to just do it “this way” and move on so that the day continues rather than using methods that will help children learn and grow into secure and awesome adults.
I have a short series of blog posts ready to go (and maybe I’ll add more, but then again, I am the queen of projects). The purpose of these posts are to help anyone who interacts with children on a regular bases set them up for success. These methods may be more work in the beginning, but after they become common practice, problems may just solve themselves.
This first may seem like a duh thing to some, but seriously, it needs to be used more:
Twenty-four four year olds wriggled on the brightly prismatic colored rug. Some children’s cheeks were puffed out with that “imaginary bubble” they were holding inside so tightly. Others waved their criss cross apple sauce legs like butterfly wings, but a very small number couldn’t do it. Two boys were soon rolling on the rug while two others were pushing and fighting with each other.
“ENOUGH!” the other teacher shouted. “You all owe me five minutes outside on the wall!” She then began to call the quiet children on the rug to line up. The offenders groaned and called out “no” but she just called for them to be silent and continued lining up the pre-kindergarten class.
Outside these boys sat and watched other children play and run and have fun. They began to wriggle and twist with the built up energy that needed desperately to be released. It was only thirty seconds in, but I knew these boys were set up for failure. A quick discussion with the other teacher led to an agreement to try something new.
“OK boys, line up against that fence.” The boys looked confused, but complied. “Instead of sitting on the wall, you are going to owe me laps.” The boys smiled like they had just gotten away with something. “You are going to run to the other fence, touch it, then run back to this fence. That is one lap. You each owe me five. GO!”
The boys grinned and took off, running as fast as those four year old legs could pump. They touched the fence and came back. One. A new burst of speed hit for lap two, but by lap three the fence seemed further away. The boys seemed sluggish, and the feeling that they had gotten away with something was gone. They pushed through the last few laps. As they touched the first fence for the fifth and final time I warned them that next time it would be ten laps. They groaned but went to join their friends. The laps seemed like child’s play until they realized that it was work, energy, exhaustion.
Five minutes had passed and one of those same boys made a faulty choice that would have landed him back on the wall for four minutes. I told him to run seven laps. He groaned but complied. After a recess filled with laps, jumping jacks, and push-ups, we lined up. The boys stood in line with a lot less wiggles and a need for water.
Studies have proved time and time again that boys have much more energy to burn than girls. They struggle to sit in these low energy classes that force them to hold still for long periods of times. That built up energy has to go somewhere and often it’s released into bad choices, rough and tumble play, irritating noises, and low impulse control that make parents and teachers want to pull their hair out.
Time and time again these poor guys are put in time out, taking a break, or whatever fancy name is created for sitting during gross motor play rather than releasing that energy in an appropriate way. Yes, sitting doing nothing is boring. Adults can’t even sit and do nothing for longer than five minutes. Why we think children should is beyond me. Giving children a “consequence” that requires them to get that extra energy out rather than continue bottle it up sets them up for success much better than time out can.
I also worked with that teacher on using practice as a consequence. It’s a method my own mother used with me all the time as a child and it works great for most children. When that group of children won’t line up without talking or causing problems, have them sit back down on the carpet (or where ever) and try again. After a few times they will hate it and want to do it right. Of course there’s always that “one” kid, but still, for the majority it works. For the parent, if your child can’t seem to get that running down the stairs is not cool in your house, practice make perfect. Annoyed that your kid can’t her hands off the walls as she heads down the hall? Practice. Children can get into the car without fighting over who gets what spot? Practice.
Sure these seem simple, silly, or even obvious, but all that matters is that they work.
What method do you use?