“I guess my best is not good enough”….. imagine hearing that sentence from a young child. It is heart breaking. No child should ever feel like this.
This is a real example of what has been heard from a young child. Why? Why did that child feel like this? Why did they feel that their best was not good enough?? The answer is simple, they were not rewarded for their hard work like their peer.
I have never believed in rewarding young children for their “hard work”. For example giving stickers for helping a friend, or putting their own coat on or for finishing a meal. By doing this I believe that you take away the child’s natural feeling of pride of accomplishing something or the natural happy feeling you get when you help someone. I believe a reward based system is a very mature concept to have to learn and understand fully at a young age. Children need to know that they reached their goal because of their hard work and determination. They need to be reminded about how far they have come and what they did to get there. We need to be there to role model positive and motivating language, for example ” you did not give up on….. and now you can…… you should be so proud of your self, I know I am” “do you remember when you found putting your jacket on a bit tricky?but look how easy it is for you now because you kept practising until you could do it”
I believe that all children when given the right support and encouragement try their best. That best will look different in all children. Some children may be maths wizards and some will be poetry masters. Some children will be able to write their names independently at the age of 3 and some may not until they are 4 or 5. This does not mean that their best was not good enough.
Some children can spend 10 minutes writing a sentence some may need 30 minutes, this does not mean their best was not good enough.
We believe children need to develop a sense of self pride and accomplishment with their own efforts, for the love of themselves not to go on a chart or be given a reward for conforming to an adults expectation of them, which will change so regularly as they meet so many of them.
Children do not need to be humiliated by having their name on a chart that shows they have ‘misbehaved’, this does not do any good for the soul and mind.
We need to teach children that if you work hard, you will achieve what you need to, no matter how long that takes. Children need to know that it is ok to have a ‘bad’ day and that their care givers and or teachers will take the time to find out what is happening, not simply add their name on to a chart for all to see. We often talk about self-regulation and expect young children just to be able to do this. But more often than not, children may not know why they have acted in a certain way or feel what they do. They need calm, patient and nurturing adults for them to learn this. As adults we need to take our own agendas out of the equation.
When children feel this pressure to conform to certain expectation or they will be made an example of, it causes far too much anxiety and internal stress (maybe that is why they are suddenly hitting, throwing toys, ‘acting out’?). It also takes the responsibility away from us as their teachers and or care givers. We need to stop and think, what are we not doing that could help this child reach their potential. How can I make this environment a more positive one? It is often too easy to look at what a child is doing wrong, but not what we could be doing wrong.
At Little Hearts Preschool, every single child is appreciated for who they are, what they are capable of and we will push each child to their own ability. Do not be surprised if you hear us say to the children “Give yourself a pat on the back!” We teach children that there are natural consequences to their actions may this be negative or positives.
But most of all we are not afraid to reflect on our own teaching and practise and regularly discuss if we need to change our approach and or environment.