Let us change the world (by gifting self-confident children), one child at time! (Part- 2)
Hitting and biting could have many underlying causes. It could be an age-appropriate behaviour or it could be a response mechanism to feeling unloved and uncared for or it could be an impulse control behaviour. I am also reminded of an 4.5 year old child – let’s name her XYZ – who commenced hitting children. She would try and explain to the younger child what she wanted from the latter and sometimes, would lose her impulse control and hit. To this child, we would acknowledge, “It must have felt awful to have lost your patience.” A couple of times, this 4.5 year child ended up crying on hearing the kind words of acknowledgement.
In a mixed age classroom, the teachers need to understand that there is a difference in the cognitive capabilities of children and we need to communicate in a way that it makes every child feel accepted, appreciated and understood. As human beings we have a deep need to be appreciated, loved and cared for. But, what psychologists tell us is that if we don’t or can’t experience others understanding us — who we are and what we’re about — then, all of the needs of love, appreciation and care can end up feeling relatively meaningless. What is the kind way to resolve conflicts? It is to have a dialogue, isnt it? However, what we encourage children to do in the name of revenge is the opposite. We normalize revenge in the pre-school years – mostly by letting the one who is offended to hit back and then try to teach moral values in the adult years. Have we ever reflected that there is an absolute disconnect in our intentions of seeing our children grow up to be able to navigate the world wisely and the inherent message that we give out to our little children?
“It will take just one generation choosing gentle, compassionate, respectful parenting to change the world for all future generations. This is our time. Our chance is now. Let's do our part to change the world, one little heart at a time.”- L.R. Knost*
We also had a 4 year old child who would hit a 5 year old child on almost all days. In this case, the 5 year old child had the impulse control to rescue himself from the child who would be hitting and stop the other child at the same time. In this case, we thought it was the best to keep ourselves uninvolved. However, there was another 5 year old child – let’s name her PQR – who lacked the confidence to either stop the hitting child or to do anything. Every time, irrespective of whether the hitting child was younger or older to her, she would curl up her legs and arms in fear.
It was imperative for us to empower PQR. We couldn't turn a blind eye as in the case of the other 5 year old. We would not leave this child unattended. We would acknowledge this child’s feelings, “We know you are scared. We know you don't know what to do? If I was in your place, I would tell the other child, ‘You cannot hit me.’” Slowly and gradually, we were delighted to observe that self-confidence engulfed PQR and PQR started defending herself by stopping the other child in a firm tone from hitting her and stopped curling up. In a simple act of intervention, PQR learnt to stand-up for herself.
If we wish to reap in the maximum benefits of true play, it is of paramount importance that we nurture a meaningful relationship with each child. Every child’s needs are diverse and we need to respond to each child in a way that is unique to the child’s needs.
*Award-winning author, feminist, and social justice activist, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources (http://www.littleheartsbooks.com), and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine.