Thursday, February 23, 2017

Creating an environment rooted in respect

For those of you who don’t know me on a more personal level, I run a preschool program from my home.

One day, during preschool hours, my husband commented, “the kids all act like little adults.”

Raising Little Adults?
At first, I was stunned by his comment. On the one hand, I was worried because, when I imagine preschools that raise “little adults,” I think of private, academic-focused schools that aim to keep kids in line. These kids get a thirty-minute recess and a lot of strictly enforced quiet desk time. You know, kind of like a kid prison.

That said, I knew what my husband meant. As someone who is in no way tuned in to child development and the subtleties of raising children, he had simply observed that our group of children display mature social skills. They treat each other with kindness, adopting a selfless, community-oriented attitude that exceeds their natural levels of development.

All I could say was, “We treat them with respect. If we treat them like babies, they’ll just act like babies.” We treat the kids the way we want them to treat each other, and this serves as the basis for building a respectful environment.

Building Courteous Environments
Children raised in high quality environments that value both them and their play often show an elevated sense of respect for one another. Their teachers model respect for each other and respect for the children, highly valuing what children bring to the table. Children are active participants in their preschool experiences and learning environments, meaning that such places make respect for oneself and others far more likely to develop.

When teachers treat playtime as a priority, recreation truly becomes the work of the child. And kids tend to take this work very seriously! It is during playtime that children open up the most to learning experiences and truly mature on a social level.

Acknowledgment and Growth
For me, the bottom line is respect. If I work at a job where I’m not taken too seriously, I treat my job as such—dismissively. But, when I’m acknowledged, considered a valuable part of the team, and treated with authentic interest, I rise to the occasion and flourish.

We offer a similar experience in our preschool. We take children’s work (their play) as seriously as they do, and they both notice and reflect such behavior.

Little adults? Maybe.

Valuable community members who are aware of their own social and physical competencies? Absolutely!

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