T Young children have a different orientation to the world than adults do. Here are a few helpful hints to help you communicate effectively with your little one.
When giving a directive to your child, make sure to give it as a statement and not a question. Say it cheerfully, as you expect your child to gladly comply. “Let’s have lunch now.” not “Would you like to have lunch now?” If you ask a question, your child might choose to say “no”. Only ask a question when the answer can be yes or no. “Would you like to have desert?” “It’s time to go to bed now.” as opposed to “Would you like to go to bed?”
Little children require little explanations. People often think if they “explain things” throughly their child will then “understand” the situation and comply. The opposite is actually true with the young child. The more simply you “explain” a concept or situation, the better. Over explaining or “over intellectualizing” as I call it, only confuses a child and often makes them anxious and nervous. You have probably inadvertently confused the child and as a result the child won’t comply because they don’t know what you are talking about. As children grow and they learn more about the world through experience, the bigger the explanations can become.
This is not to say that children are not intelligent or insightful. Nona Beamer tells of how her now famous musician son, Keolu, as a child of 6 noticed that God had placed lei around all the things in nature: a lei of shade around a tree; a lei of clouds around the mountains; a lei of surf around around an island. When I tried to explain money to my son when he was 3 he mused; “If no one had any money, we’d all be rich.” These insights came from the children themselves and were not the result of any adult’s lengthy explanation.
When interacting with your child, consider your child’s physical state: is your child tired or hungry? Is it close to bedtime or nap? Did a meal get served later than usual? If your child is either tired or hungry their behavior will be a little cranky. About 50% of a young child’s personality is: “Are they tired or are they hungry?”
If your child is either, don’t be upset with them for not presenting their best behavior. If they are behaving badly, you can say: “I don’t like the way you are behaving right now, but I know you need to go to bed, so we will just get you to bed as quickly as possible.”
Notice how I said “WE”. This is a trick I learned from one of my Waldorf teachers, Dorothy Olsen. Use the royal “we” and you will have even more authority on your side. She was from South Africa and had also lived in Britain. The members of the royal family refer to themselves as “We”, even though they are really just one person. The implication, that “we” do it this way, naturally makes one want to do whatever it is that WE do.
There is a lot of talk in the western tradition about “setting boundaries”. I don’t like the sound of that frankly, as I think westerners are already too conscious of how separate they are from each other and oblivious to our common humanity. I find it more effective to have appropriate “rules”. Rules are something all the children can follow and still be loving friends to each other and respect the teacher and not resent her. Rules can be of a moral or practical nature. For instance we always mind the Aunties (teachers) at school because that’s what keeps us safe.” “We play together with all of our friends; we do not exclude our friends from our games.” Here is a practical rule: “We only throw soft balls inside and yard balls outside. We do not throw any of the other toys.” If I’m shaping the atmosphere of the class through “rules” there is less emphasis on faulting the individual and more emphasis on creating harmony. “Oh, we don’t do that. Remember, we have a rule about that.”
Which brings me to one more important thing: when you are correcting your child ALWAYS EMPHASIZE THE CORRECT BEHAVIOR, do not just focus on what the child shouldn’t have done. Don’t say “no” without also saying what the child should do instead. “We don’t hit our friends. Did you want a turn on the swing? Then let’s ask our friend for a turn. Tell your friend what you want. Don’t hit him.” Most of the time when a child does something inappropriate it’s because they haven’t been taught how to do the right thing yet. We don’t do this, but we do do that. Assure your child that you are there to help. “If your friend (or sibling ) doesn’t understand what you want, then come and get me and I will help you talk to your friend (or sibling). Do not hit (bite, scream at, tease, etc.) your friend (sibling).
When do you let the children “work it out” and when do you intervene? When have you helped your child too much? Not enough? That takes some explanation and some finesse. You’ll have to wait for my book: “Bias: Raising Your Children While Raising Your Consciousness.”
Over all, when I’m teaching at the preschool I hope I am doing a service for humanity. I hope I am in some small way promoting world peace. The most important thing for children and all of us to be good at, is taking care of each other. Living the Aloha Spirit is to care for others before yourself. The Dalai Lama espouses the very same thing. If everyone cared for others first, no one would be uncared for. We may be “smart” as human beings, but are we “nice”? Can we exercise compassion? No matter how clever humanity may become, without world peace we will not succeed in preserving our species and our planet home.
I hope the above tips will be helpful to you.
Here are some resources in our community that support parents and children.
The Parenting Line
Neighbor Islands: 1-800-816-1222
The Parenting Line provides an excellent Resource Directory for Parents of Young Children They also provide a listening ear for a parent in need of some sympathetic listening.
A one-stop virtual hub for programs/services for young children and their families
keikicentral.org or 211
Child and Family Services, Oahu 681-3500
Kids Health Insurance Hotline
Free/low-cost healthcare for children 211
Hawai’i Mothers Milk, Inc. 949-1723
Information on Breastfeeding
La Leche League 1-877-452-5324
American Red Cross 734-2101
Infant CPR Classes/
Baby Sitter Training
Child Care Connection 566-2600
Help with subsidizing childcare costs
Hawaii Poison Hotline 1-800-222-1222