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How to Understand
Children can be a blast to hang out with. But anyone who spends a decent amount of time around little ones also knows that they can be a force to be reckoned with. Whenever I would babysit and experience a chaotic situation, I would run to my mom and vent to her, still a child myself. And she would just listen and say, "Pick and choose your battles." Even though this bit of advice has come back to haunt me ever since, I have discovered an adherence to it to be quite beneficial.
Even though it can be difficult to work with challenging children, I feel as though those type of children have been specifically placed on my heart. These are the type of children that seem to expel everything they have on the inside of them, the good and the bad. They don't hold anything back and I love them for that. However, in the same way, this attribute also causes much frustration. The majority of tension between teachers and students stems from a lack of understanding. The teacher has in mind what he or she wants all of the children to do. There always seems to be one or two children who do not want to participate in the well-planned project and therefore, attempt to disturb the entire classroom. I once heard someone at an early childhood conference wisely say, "If children are acting up, they are not out to get you. They are trying to tell you something." I've discovered this to be true on many occasions. It may feel as though the challenging child is deliberately trying to turn the day around for the worse. However, there are usually underlying reasons for why a child acts the way that he or she does. They are not looking for a fight but rather they are hungering to be heard.
Each Child is Unique
Just as it is with adults, you may never discover what type of stress the child is under at home. While it isn't right to assume that every challenging child has a challenging home life, it also isn't right to assume that everything is perfect at home either. Sometimes giving these children some space is all that they really need. But every child is different. I have worked with other children that only desired to have attention. When they saw that my full attention was on them, they became calm almost immediately. Therefore, it's important to really know the children of your classroom. Each child was created uniquely and should be treated as such. Because most children tend to be vocal about how they feel, you can tell a child's "love language" by how they react to your own way of expressing love. We tend to give the love that we would like to recieve. For instance, I love when people tell me out loud that I am doing a good job. Therefore, I vocalize a lot of how I feel towards others through my words. Others might appreciate a hug far more than a kind word. It's amazing how the atmosphere of the room can change when you focus on loving children in the way that best serves them.
Focus on Them
While I do believe discipline is necessary in carrying out an orderly classroom, I do know that there is a more positive approach toward doing this than some are accustomed to doing. Sometimes, not enough focus is being placed on the child. As a teacher, I know that it has been a struggle for me to not be trapped in solely pleasing those who are in leadership over me. While it is great to want to please leadership, it can overtake a desire to want what is best for the children. Even a need to please your own high standards can be exchanged for helping children learn. For instance, it is great for children to grow in all areas of development but Billy and the majority of the class may not have any interest in the area of art. Therefore, it would not be wise to plan all of your teaching ideas around art projects. Thankfully, a majority of my preschoolers loved taking part in art projects and so do I. When children begin to show a lack of interest in the way that they are being taught, then change it for the sake of the children. Part of showing them love is laying down your life and revealing to them that you will do what it takes so that they can become excited about the life around them. Some adults become content with the mundane tasks that they must perform every day. But with a job like teaching, you don't have to perform the same tasks daily. You can be the inspirational agent that shows children how to be excited about every day. Also, if you focus on their talents rather than on what you want to accomplish, this will release frustration that does not need to be present, and will allow the class to run more smoothly.