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Are We Focusing on Children's Strengths... Or Have We Forgotten How?

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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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:

mother and child talking

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.

child painting

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.

reading book with child

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!

Alphabet Jigsaw SuperBusyMum4

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.

Talking and listening 180

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.

committment to children

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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 7 and Radley, 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

  • Guest
    Diane Smith Friday, 28 October 2016

    Deb,
    I really enjoyed reading the article, "Are We Focusing on Children's Strengths..." I think we must follow this article's guidance of allowing children to pay attention to what children say and to encourage their interests. This is the premise of the project approach in my opinion.
    Sincerely,
    Diane

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