Understanding children’s natural phases of development helps parents and teachers respond in the appropriate way.
In the past, we used strategies to guide behaviour, but now we need to understand the causes of the behaviour. Why? Because behaviour changes when the environment changes.
- A toddler is constantly pulling on mum’s shirt and whining. Mum opens the door and moves outdoors and the child’s behaviour changes.
- A toddler is whining and complaining because he can’t see what is happening on the kitchen bench. By providing a stool, and changing the environment, the behaviour changes.
The active role of parents and teachers is to work in an indirect way on the environment. Learning for children younger than 6yo, happens mostly in an indirect way.
Parents may notice that their second child indirectly absorbs concepts they have been showing their older child. This type of learning is effortless. Your reaction might be “Who taught you that?” But he does not believe anyone taught him, he just knows it.
The role of parents and teachers needs to be proactive. When children are not settled, are disorderly, not cooperative and flitting from one activity to another, we look for strategies. But what strategies will work best? Our responses vary and need to match the circumstance:
We can choose to – redirect, surprise, charm, encourage, seek respect, be firm, listen, be reliable, loving, kind, patient and energetic – perhaps not all at once!
You may have to lead, amuse and suggest.
“Let’s have a working bee!” or “Let’s sort out these things”.
Ultimately, the interest in a particular object or process will attract the child’s attention. When we allow him to work with something he has freely chosen, his behaviour becomes more settled and orderly.
Manipulative tasks keep him focused and allow him to coordinate his movements. Activities that require precision will attract him.
Parents and teachers need to prepare materials that will satisfy the need of that particular child at that particular time. It is a window of opportunity to allow the child to absorb concepts through interaction with the material. The opportunity may not present itself again. Therefore, observation is another important role of teachers and parents. It is a sensitive time when the child is beginning to follow an interest.
A good observer knows not to disturb. It is important to recognise the moment concentration begins and then disappears. The parent’s skill of not interfering comes with practice. Interrupting the child when he is working independently causes aimlessness and lack of interest.
The qualities formed in this creative period are so beneficial for the child’s life, that it is vitally important to provide the means needed to establish them at the right time.
It is important for children to participate in a learning environment without judgement.
By using their imagination in an original way, and enjoying the process, they are motivated to experience the joy of learning in this way again and again.
It is urgent to understand what these formative years are able to produce, and the possibilities they offer. It is important to maximise potential rather than missing the opportunities that are available for the child.
The child can only build a strong character if you give help in a suitable way. It is best to stand back and observe where the interest lies. This allows for extending the project by offering more suitable materials or helping where the child may need help.
When we prepare an exercise and try and teach it in a direct way there will be resistance.
- Direct – you see that a pencil hold is awkward and you correct it directly.
- Indirect – you observe an awkward pencil hold, but you say nothing. You give plenty of fine motor exercises to strengthen the hand muscles.
Parents who do not know the secret of “indirect learning” complain of behaviour problems.
To avoid resistance ask –
- Can I present this lesson in an indirect way?
- Is the child in a receptive mood without distractions or irritation – physically or emotionally?
- Have I invited the child to participate in a charming way?
- Is there “isolation of concept”? That is, introducing one concept at a time.