Friday, October 19, 2012

Being Present and Following the Child

I love the focus in this picture!

With Children it is so important to be present. If I could have one wish it would be for adults (parents and teachers) to value and be fully present with their children much of the time they are together. Of course in the day to day pace many times we need to be only halfway there or doing something else. Dishes, dinner, and shopping don’t get themselves done. However what if you spent a day present with the children in your life, following their lead.

This does not mean, necessarily that they get to make all the big decisions, that would be too scary for them, rather it means that you follow their lead. You pay attention to their needs, and some wants, but the needs are greater. If they need space to run, give it; if they need time to get started or stop, allow it; if they need to do something by themselves, let it. Be focused on them; listen fully to them. Put away all other distractions. This will build your relationship greatly, to new heights. It can repair a lot of past traumas and feelings of fear. When you do this one thing it will allow children to build true confidence, true independence and to feel so loved.

There are two things about this practice that are important to do and remember.

First, there is a way to disengage and follow the more traditional form of give and take. Children need to learn that while you are focused on them often, you also have other things to do, other parts of your life. Just think of any relationship, there is healthy give and take, sometimes you do what the other wants and sometimes what you want, and often what is needed to be done.  Disengagement is an art form that starts at the beginning of the time. Be clear about how long you have and then stick to that. Give a warning about 10 to 5 minutes before clean up and when that time is up let them know it is time to begin clean up. I have found that giving concrete events to show the time is helpful for the very young. For example “After this game we will clean up so that I can do … and you can do…” Try to make the next part that they do on their own something fun for them to look forward to, preferably something better than watching TV (but that is just a personal view), that also needs no or very little adult supervision.

Second, Just as it is great to follow the child it is also good for them to understand that they are not in control. Giving young children too much responsibility and control can cause feelings of fear and frustration. Try to keep their responsibility developmentally appropriate by giving them one or two choices that you are comfortable with.

 While most of this information is for parents, teachers can be fully present and follow the children in their class. First focus on the children, not the other adults in the class (they already went to school), turn off you phone, during the time that you are with the children be with them fully. Your students will notice, they will seek you out and show you their authentic interests and knowledge. You will notice more of what they are interested in. With this information you can begin to form curriculum that is truly child led.

You don’t need an entire day to follow your child, spend a little time each day, focus completely on this little human that you love so much. It will be good for you and good for them.


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