Often as parents and even teachers begin their path toward “working with” rather than “doing to” children, their needs get lost. Adults know that there are safety boundaries and basic health boundaries they must work to find a way to respectfully set. However, in an effort to be respectful we sometimes push our own needs aside. The goal of respectful parenting is to ‘work with’ children, acknowledging that they are separate individuals with needs and that we can guide children while meeting both of our needs. When the adult continually sets aside her needs for the child’s, the child learns that his needs are more important, not equally important. By not drawing personal boundaries for our needs, we miss the opportunity to teach our child about how to respectfully draw personal boundaries. By drawing those boundaries we teach our child that they too can say "no" respectfully. Perhaps your child doesn’t respond when you ask him a question and it bothers you. You might simply model for them, “I heard you mom, right after this game.” In the classroom teachers support one another by helping the child remember this response through modeling. You can do that with your spouse at home. If you call to your spouse and child, “Dinner is going to be in five minutes, I need some table setters.” Your spouse can help your child respond with, “On our way.” This simple modeling can help you to meet your needs and it works for other situations. If your young toddler is whining or grunting for something you might say, “You’re trying to tell me you want water. Use your big voice so I can understand. Say ‘water’.” Being honest about your needs for space, time, or respectful communication meets your needs so you can be present, attuned, and patient with your child. Further, you are modeling for your child how to draw personal boundaries--a skill they will need as they negotiate their relationships now and in the future.
A few recent interactions drew my attention back to a simple skill that teachers and parents can use. Tactfully pausing in our interactions with young children can make a world of difference. This comes naturally in some situations, but in other situations we need to mindfully remember to pause. This pause provides the time for two things to happen. Caregivers are able to make observations and really assess the situation during this time. Children are given the space and time to process. We can use the tactful pause when we are helping our child learn to talk, learn to sleep, and learn to problem solve. Consider how in early infancy pausing for five to fifteen seconds to curiously look at the situation might be helpful. You might see your child is able to self soothe in that moment, or you might notice more clearly what is causing your child’s upset. This pause becomes especially helpful as children are approaching the toddler years and learning to talk. Communication is a back and forth passing of ideas. We have been talking to our babies for nearly a year and we are so eager for language growth. Tactfully pausing, for sometimes as much as fifteen seconds, creates space for children to respond and that language growth to occur. Children need time to process their ideas. If a young child is using pointing or grunting to communicate we can acknowledge their desired communication and give them the words and the time to try to communicate their ideas more clearly. Sometimes we don’t realize how much time it takes for children to process. Most of us have had the experience where we say goodbye to our infant and they wave to us after we have already closed the door. It is taking time for them to process. They need a moment of silent thought to respond. The tactful pause can be useful as children become older. After asking an open ended question like, “What can we do?” you might need to pause to give space for your child to think of ideas. Pausing before offering our own suggestions gives children the space to be problem solvers.
,Early childhood education has been in the news a lot recently. Research has shown crucial development is happening before children are school aged, and children’s early childhood experiences greatly impact their future success socially and academically. Early childhood education is fairly new as a field of study, but early childhood educators have been around for years. More than a few decades ago, the first early childhood educators founded the field in parent groups, nursery schools, and cooperative preschools around the world. They knew society needed to support the vital brain development that happens in the early years, even before the current brain research was available.
An early childhood educator is someone who understands and works to support the crucial development that happens in the minds and bodies of children before formal schooling begins. Early childhood educators know young children learn best through play and educators see the learning even where others only see play. We are early childhood educators. Our Neighborhood teachers work to try to understand how young children grow and develop. We work to support young children using current research and a philosophy of respect. Early childhood educators are caretakers. We love the children and families we work with at school. The relationships between young children and their teachers is where many early childhood educators find their passion. Early childhood educators know that our love and tender care doesn’t make us less than teachers. The strong relationships early childhood educators form with young learners is what drives the learning and creates the safety necessary for rapid brain development in the early years. The early education field is growing rapidly, influenced by the news and the research. The understanding of early education in our society hasn’t quite caught up with the field’s rapid growth. We are shaping this profession now. We have the power to see the teachers of our young children as early educators while simultaneously pushing back on an academic focused, sanitized, or corporate profit driven early childhood experience. We need to empower all people who work with our young children to take on the role of early educator, to seek deep understanding of children, and to work intentionally to support their development. As early childhood educators, Our Neighborhood teachers have to speak up for our role because we impact the development of young children. Parents can support this societal shift. Parents can work with early childhood educators to look closely at children’s play and see their children’s learning. Parents can speak up in their work and in their family life for the early childhood experiences that will support their child’s growth. Together we can shift society’s view of young children and help create the high quality early childhood experiences that will support children throughout their lives. Early childhood educators know that we can’t make this shift alone. Early child educators are here because parents shouldn’t have to go through this alone either. Only together can parents and teachers push society toward seeing the children and providing for them authentic early childhood experiences.