3 to 4 "But I need To Use It" by Susan A. Miller, Ed.D.,
Omar leans back on the door; pushing it tightly against the wall so that all the other 4-yearolds can walk through it easily. When his teacher, Janet, pauses at the door, Omar proudly beams and announces, "I'm doing a really good job today. I'm a strong door holder!" Janet smiles back and compliments him. "I can see that you're taking your responsibility seriously now. You're working hard to be an excellent class helper. Thank you!"
Janet's exchange with 4-year-old Omar was quite different just the day before, when they had a serious discussion about how he almost hurt his friend. As fours often do, Omar was showing off how important he was in his designated role as the door holder. He also wanted to play a trick on his best friend Michael. Instead of holding the door, he quickly pushed it shut while teasing "You can't get me!" Michael's fingers came close to being pinched in the door. Omar did not mean to be disrespectful of his friend's feelings or to put him in jeopardy-in his mind, he was just having a little mischievous fun. It is often difficult for preschoolers to consider the consequences of their actions.
Need It-Its Mine!
Threes, in particular, are quite egocentric and need your gentle guidance to help them learn to be respectful of other children's skills and creations. For example, without thinking, a 3-year-old might take apart another child's block structure. The child might do this for many of his own reasons: He might feel that the structure is in his way, that he needs a particular block, or that it isn't built the way he would have built it. To help, you can discuss how his actions made the other child feel and offer alternatives. "Daniel's proud of how hard he worked on his block building. He's sad that you took it apart. If you'd like your own blocks, just ask me and we'll look for some that you can use."
You Did a Great Job!
Threes are still anxious to please adults and love it when you respect their efforts and tell them so. This helps them learn to believe in themselves and their own abilities. Although fours like to hear your sincere admiration, they consider their friends' respectful comments to be very special.
Since fours have a wonderful sense of curiosity, they want to know how their friend built that amazing block tower or wrapped wire around a piece of wood to create a robot. When children respond to their friends' accomplishments with admiring words such as "Wow!" or "That's great!" they are showing great respect for their friends' impressive talents. And, of course, this simply reinforces the 4-yearold's idea that she can do almost anything-or at least try.
What You Can Do:
- Model respectfulness with your actions. Use pleasant tones and positive language. Make sure your body language conveys you care and are listening. * Be considerate. Show children that you care. Try not to interrupt what they are saying or doing. Ask for their opinions and then use their suggestions. For example, before you display their artwork, ask their permission.
- Work with children to manage their own behavior. Help them learn to problem-solve. Focus on respectful solutions instead of punishments. For instance, imagine that Peter is focused on cleaning up and interfering with John's work on his art project. You can ask Peter what other areas he might clean in order to give John time to finish his project. * Acknowledge children's helpfulness. Thank children for respecting other's feelings and materials. Build their self-esteem with authentic praise: "I like the way you gave Sarah some tape to fix her new painting. I'm proud of you.
5 to 6 Like What You Made! by Ellen Booth Church
Jared was having one of those days. He tripped walking into the classroom, knocked over a friend's Lego building, and then spilled milk all over the entire table at snack. It's no wonder that later at storytime, when he couldn't get the seat he wanted, he broke down crying and pushed the other child away. On the other hand, Bethany is going from child to child demonstrating her newfound skill of finger snapping. She beams as she shows just how she holds her fingers and makes a noisy-SNAP! The snap in her fingers is translated into a snap in her step as she literally bounds through the day. Even when Jared pushes her, she hardly reacts!
When a child feels good about herself, as in the case of Bethany, she also can feel good about others. Conversely, when he has negative feelings about himself, as seen above with Jared, he can feel that others are in the way or even out to get him! How can he have respect for others if he is not respecting himself?
I Believe in ME!
In order for a 5-year-old to believe in himself, he needs to experience support from others. Acknowledging small accomplishments is the best way to start. Five-year-olds love to demonstrate what they have learned. What have the children in your group learned to do this year? Skip, tie shoes, read their names? Celebrating these areas of growth not only helps children feel good about themselves, it also shows them how to respect the accomplishments of others. Bethany has learned to snap, and Jared can tie his shoes. Developmentally, 5- and 6year-olds are moving beyond their egocentric view and are more ready than ever to see what others can do too.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Learning how to tackle a challenging but achievable goal, such as writing your name or climbing the ropes of an outdoor climber, is an important part of believing in yourself. Aren't you proudest when you learn to do something that took time and effort? Five-year-old Lynne wanted to be able to go hand over hand across the monkey-bar bridge. All the other children were able to do it. She was shy, clearly envious of them, and not respectful of their turns. She practiced and practiced with her mom after school. Her mom held her up so she got the feel of it. Eventually she could do it! A sense of pride took over her entire being! Interestingly, when Lynne learned how to do that one challenging thing, she was willing to try other tough tasks. She was more outgoing because she began to believe in herself.
What you can do:
- Children develop a sense of respect when they learn to appreciate their own accomplishments as well as those of others. Through modeling and support you can help children recognize (and respect) these accomplishments.
- Have mini-celebrations to show support and respect for what each child has learned to do.
- Read literature that celebrates individual accomplishments, such as The Little Engine That Could* by Watty Piper (Scholastic Inc.; $3.95) and Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus (HarperCollins, 1998; $7.95).
- Demonstrate and verbalize respect for materials and property. Acknowledge children who take good care of materials.
- Model appreciation by watching attentively, listening, pausing, and making eye contact when you interact with children.