On being helpful to children

As today I have been guest in a kindergarten classroom, I had a lot of time to observe children, busy with so many things that only a child can think of. So full of energy, so willing, so curious, so cheerful. So random and still so focused; so unfinished by grown-up standards, but so crystal clear in their intentions and expressions.

Why should that be a limited time of human life? How to keep the spirit of childhood alive, all life long, together with adult capabilities? This is for me an open question, but luckily I have live examples to study and follow (childhood as a state of mind? – stay tuned for another post…).

I have been thinking at what kind of help adults can give to children, to support their growth. I identified three big cornerstones: acceptance, strength and knowledge. I assume that there can be more, but I cannot think of less than these three.

First, I feel that I have to accept the child as it is, if I want to be helpful to him/her. Any shadow in this acceptance means that I would try to correct something that I consider wrong – and this will be harmful. I don’t hide that it’s very difficult. It’s so ingrained in us, that teaching means correcting. A good pupil is an obedient, predictable pupil, right? But there are treasures hidden behind the “good pupil” mask. Only by allowing the child to be spontaneous (i.e. noisy! bold! disobedient!) I can really know him/her and find ways to give support. Authority and understanding don’t share the same boundaries. From an authoritarian point of view, I would allow disobedience; but I could also be giving space to the child, because my goal is to understand him/her better. I am the only one to know if I am allowing disobedience because of my personal failure in making me respected.

Then comes strength. I have to be strong, to effectively support the child when he is afraid or unsure; my inner child cannot be afraid or unsure of the same things as the child I am in care of. The child will invariably spot it and will not trust him/herself in facing the difficulty alone. Wouldn’t you do the same, if a guide in a foreign country showed fear in entering a particular place?

Last but not really least, comes knowledge. I have to be capable in the tasks I show to the child, so that I know how much I have to rectify when the child tries to do them. With increasing experience, one leaves more and more space to trials and errors by the learner itself, because one trusts that he/she will find a good solution on his/her own – or to say, a good solution will become self-evident.

Thank you children for humbling me, cheerfully; thank you, children-adults, for showing me the way.

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