Sometimes, when in a room full of young children every day, it becomes easy to start comparing them with each other and focusing on the things some children don’t do as well as others. Or, the children start to appear as a group, as they interact with the environment. Seeing the unique, individuality of children becomes blurred. This is a road we don’t want to go down. Early childhood educators must stay focused on each child’s strengths and make a point to support them.
All children have natural inclinations and innate talents, but no child possesses the same ones They are all one of a kind- actually one of about 7.5 billion! If we refocus on each child’s strengths, we help children to be successful… not only for today but also throughout their lives.
Here are a few ways to change over to a new and improved mindset:
1. Don’t get hung up on bad behaviors. If the child has been pinching his classmates, the teacher will often constantly ask, “You haven’t been pinching anyone today, now have you?” or reminding him, “Remember, we don’t pinch our friends.” Everything starts to revolve around what we don’t do. Instead, the teacher must find the other things the child is interested in, know what his talents are, so there can be another focus. She has to get away from the pinching focus or it’s never going to change.
2. Pay attention to the kinds of environments and activities individual children repeatedly gravitate toward. You will notice that when children are present in these situations, they will be totally engrossed and engaged. Time stands still for a child who enjoys unit blocks. Recognizing his deep interest, the teacher can present challenges to enhance this child’s potential strengths that the activity is developing. She can also extend the value of what he is doing by asking some “What If?” questions or setting a new goal for his building. Maybe she could ask him to explain how he will tackle it. By showing her interest, she strengthens his.
3. Encourage others to notice the child’s interests. They can provide encouragement and affirmation of his special talents. When more than one person takes the time to give a child some one-on-one attention, it is empowering. He will strive beyond his perceived limits because now he thinks he can. What a fantastic life skill!
4. Pay attention. We’ve all heard children say, “Watch me!” again and again. Don’t ever get tired of it, because it is so important. They want to know we’re present and our undivided attention to what they’re doing feeds their soul. Many times, just watching and listening can be the best gift. Wait for them to ask for your ideas or comments.
5. Give children time to answer your questions. Wait a bit. Allow some time to hear him out. On average, adults will say something back to the child within 9/10th of a second if he hasn’t responded. Try waiting 5 instead. He’s not only going to tell you something but is also basking in what he really craves: your undistracted listening.
Taking these steps will facilitate a change in where your focus lies. A positive focus helps to individualize and recognize children’s strengths… seeing each one of them for who they are. Every child deserves that.