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Helping Young Children Find an Internal Locus of Control

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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We all aim to help children learn to be responsible, to have a conscience, and to have respect for others. This is a process that starts at home and continues as children enter school. The responsibility is then shared with their teachers, who model responsible behaviors and hold children accountable.

When speaking philosophically, it’s easy to go on about how children should learn these skills and how parents are so often guilty of being indulgent or too permissive. It isn’t until we turn our glance inward that the reality of the matter is understood.

As parents, giving children the opportunity to learn responsibility and consequences is easier said than done. If you are a parent, you know what I mean. You don't want your child to experience the discomfort of a consequence, so you bring his forgotten lunch to school or the homework papers he left in the car, or clean up his room for him, or pay his library fine, and so on and so on. Then, there are times you can see he is about to fall flat on his face and you struggle with yourself to stand back and let it happen... and believe me, it takes a lot of struggle to do that, because of how much you love your child.

But, if you really love your child, you need to let these consequences happen, regardless of how much it hurts. Your child will not always have you to pick up the pieces. Then, when he's on his own and has to rely on himself, he will fall harder because he's not had any practice.

I can tell you I have been guilty of this with my first son, especially. It was a natural thing for me to step in and smooth things out. I was thinking with my heart and not my head, apparently. I remember talking with my son the night before he left for college.

I asked him what he would change about anything I'd done as his mother. (I was the one who asked, so I guess I should have been prepared for the answer!) He said there was only one thing... and that was I should have let him hit bottom once in a while so he would know better what to do. He asked me to be sure to do this with his two younger brothers. This certainly stung, but I appreciated his honest advice and promised to do what he asked, and I did.

Sad boy with bookbag

As early educators, we are all "parents" to our children in many ways. As such, we are tempted to step in to smooth things for them, prevent their discomfort, and think with our hearts instead of our heads. We have to resist this at all cost and let them learn from their mistakes and develop a strong inner locus of control early on.

This is truly respecting young children.

a happy preschooler

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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

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Guest Monday, 18 March 2019