Archive for Social

21 Jan 2013

How to Raise Compassionate Children

1 Comment Being Intentional, Parenting, Social, Socio-Emotional Development

We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes. – Fred  Rogers

As responsive caregivers we are setting the foundation for empathy right from the very beginning of a child’s life. By responding appropriately to them we are showing them that we are aware of their needs and feelings. Through our actions they learn that their caregivers provide what they need, whether it’s food, a change or simply love and comfort. When infants get older and become mobile we begin to see them display empathy. I’ve seen many older infants and young toddlers bring a crying child a toy or other comfort object. They are beginning to respond to others in an empathetic way. Clearly we are born with a need for caring relationships, a need to engage others and even to empathize with them and to help. We are born with the capacity for compassion.

So what then do we do to nurture this ability in children? How do empathetic children become compassionate adults? How do we help children to learn to help others? How old do we have to be to learn compassion?

I think that the best way that we can help children to have compassion and to help others is through our own actions. Many of us donate our money and our time to help those less fortunate than ourselves, however, how much of this do our children see? If we’re simply writing cheques, how will our children become aware of our contributions? For those who keep busy schedules, sometimes the only way to contribute is financially, and that’s fine. I would encourage you, however to try to do this in a way that your children are aware of your contributions. Use the labels and cards that charities often send to accompany a donation. Tell the children where these items came from and what the money you gave went towards. If they are old enough, have conversations with them about what charities you support and ask what charities they would like to support by asking who they would like to help or how.

Some others ways to demonstrate compassion would be to make it a regular occurrance to go through your home and gather clothes that don’t fit, toys or household items that are no longer used. Pack these items up and take them to the donation centre together. When children are old enough they can start to make their own choices about what toys to keep and which to donate. If you volunteer and it’s appropriate, take your child with you. They might be too young to make a significant contribution, however, simply being present to see the work that you are doing will impact them. If we model these actions and behaviours right from the start, children will grow up with this type of work as a normal part of their lives and I think that’s the goal. As they grow and develop, so will their involvement and I think that children can certainly surprise us with their capacity to care and desire to help others.

My hope is that the next generation will be more caring, more empathetic and more compassionate than ever before.

27 Sep 2011

Sharing is Caring?

4 Comments ELECT, Parenting, Social, Toddlers, Toddlers
Toddlers (14 months -3 years)
Social 

1.1 Social Interest

  • observing and imitating peers
  • beginning to play “follow the peer” games
  • observing and playing briefly with peers (may turn into struggle for possession)
  • offering toys
  • engaging in short group activities
Incorporating singing games into play and routines. Engage one child at a time where other toddlers can observe. 

Toddler’s natural social interest in adults and children helps to focus their attention.

Observing the shared joy of the singing game will motivate involvement when a new game is being introduced.

There’s this phrase I hear time and again from parents and child care workers- “sharing is caring”. It bothers me every time I hear it, especially since it’s often used with toddlers and “twos”. I’m not sure where the phrase originated but I’m pretty sure it’s a big purple dinosaur that’s responsible for its popularity.

Now it’s not that I’m adverse to sharing (or caring for that matter), my issue is how this phrase is used and who it’s being directed towards.
I most often hear this phrase as a admonishment to a child. This child may be playing with a toy another child shows interest in or wanting to hold on to all of the cars or blocks. The phrase “sharing is caring” is used to tell the child to give up their current play so that another child can play. Now let’s imagine this same scenario in a more “adult” context. I’m working on a note in a client file and Joe wants to work on the same file. Joe and I cannot work on the file at the same time. Now it may frustrate or inconvenience Joe that I am working on this client file, he might even ask me to stop my work to give him the file. However, I am fully within my rights to refuse because I’m still using it. Now imagine that Joe’s recourse is to go to our boss; what do you think his response would be? Do you think my boss would ask me to give up the file to Joe stating “sharing is caring”? Doubtful. Would he set up a schedule for me to have the file for 1 minute and then Joe would have a turn for 1 minute and then it would be my turn again? Or would he just trust us to sort things out for ourselves?

Why don’t we allow children the opportunity to negotiate these property disputes on their own? Who are we to decide what is fair or unfair? It is difficult to watch children fight over toys and even more so when one child seems to always have toys taken from them. However, in those instances, does our intervention really help that child? In the short term perhaps, but in the long term, wouldn’t they benefit from learning how to hold onto their toys tighter or to tell other children “mine”? When we intervene, we take away those opportunities for children to negotiate these types of social situations on their own.

The other thing I’d like to touch on briefly is the expectations for very young children to share. Often I hear caregivers tell children as young as twelve or thirteen months to share. We need to remember that infants and toddlers are still very ego centric and they are supposed to be that way. At that age it is “all about me”. They might sometimes offer up toys or “share” with others, but only on their own terms. Our expectations should reflect this. I’m reminded of a poem I’ve read time and again:

Toddler Property Laws

What’s Mine is… Mine

If I like it, it’s mine

If I saw it first, it’s mine

If it’s in my hand, it’s mine

If I can take it from you, it’s mine

If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine

If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way

If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine

If you are playing with it and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine

If it’s broken, it’s yours

I”m not against supporting children in turn taking and learning how to share, I just think that we need to use the right words and have the right expectations based on their age.

What do you think?

Photo by Andrew_mc_d (Flickr)

30 Jun 2011

Building Relationships from a Distance

No Comments ELECT, Infants, Social
Infants (0-24 months)
Social

1.4 Maintaining Connection across Space

  • Uses gestures, vocalizations and her emerging expressice language to keep connected to an adult across space
Make eye contact when you are across the room.

Mobile, older infants are now able to communicate across space (distal communication).

Making eye contact from across the room can help to maintain your connection to an infant who is exploring.

It’s all about relationships.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; caregiving in the early years is all about relationships. The most important thing that we do day in and day out is not “teaching” new skills but forming trusting, supportive, respectful relationships with the infants and young children in our care. That being said, when it comes to group care, this can be a challenge because we are often very busy and rarely have the opportunities which allow us to have fully engaged one on one interactions with the children. So we do our best to have as many of those moments as we can and we take full advantage of caregiving routines which allow us this time. That being said, when it comes to forming relationships in a busy infant, the ability to keep connected across space is a significant one.

As we go about our classroom routines, we need to be conscious of what is happening with the children around us. By being attentive to children’s explorations, even from a distant, we allow them the opportunity to engage us in what they are doing, even when we are doing other things. Across the room, an infant may be exploring with a toy, and look over, attempting to make eye contact, he or she may gesture or say the name of the toy, trying to call our attention to what they are doing. Although we may be unable to join them in their exploration, by acknowledging their communication and responding to them, we are still able to support their exploration and strengthen the relationship. An infant or young child may call out for us with a need, such as hunger or physical affection. We might not be able to meet this need immediately if we are attending to another child, but now we are able to respond by letting the child know that we have heard them and will be there to support them when we are finished with the task at hand. We’re never too busy or too far away to respond to an infant or young child in a respectful, supportive way.

29 Mar 2011

Holistic Development

No Comments ELECT, Infants, Social
Infants (0-24 months)
Social

1.3 Simple Turn Taking

  • Playing simple one-to-one games such as peekaboo
Cover your face with a transparent scarf. Pull it off and say “Peekaboo!” Pause and repeat. Soon the infant will pull off the scarf when you pause. When he does, say “Peekaboo!” Repeat so the infant takes turns.
This simple game provides practice in the give and take of simple turn taking.

This is a wonderful example of what I really love about the continuum in the ELECT. This item “simple turn taking” is found both here, in the Social domain, as well as being repeated later in the “communication, language and literacy” domain under non-verbal communication skills. This is great because it takes into account the holistic way that young children learn and develop. This and many other skills and milestones in the development of young children encompass multiple domains and I think that it’s important to remember that. Children (or adults for that matter) are never learning just one thing; they are taking in many things all around them, learning and growing at a rapid pace. Life isn’t a place where you can control for all the variables to isolate one factor, and I think that’s a good thing. There are several overlaps like this in the continuum and I hope that they will help all who use it to keep the holistic nature of development in mind as we work with and observe young children.

One more thing I’ve noticed is that “peek-a-boo” is a game that we all seem to instinctively play with babies. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you have a lot of experience with babies and young children or none at all, when faced with a baby, everyone seems to end up playing some form of “peek-a-boo” either with their hands, or peering over a newspaper or around a corner. At least that’s my experience. I’d love to know what you think.

21 Feb 2011

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

No Comments ELECT, Infants, Social
Infants (0-24 months)
Social

1.2 Imitation

  • imitating adult behaviour
  • take part in pretend play with simple scenarios like caring for dolls
Opening your arms wide, say, “Big!” Pause and look directly at the infant. Repeat. When he imitates this action, say, “You did it!”
Playing “copy me” games supports observation and imitation as a way of learning.

Infants have an amazing capacity to learn. Not only do they learn at an incredibly rapid pace but they are constantly learning like sponges, absorbing all that’s around them. This can be a scary thing. Not only because as adults we can’t even hope to learn as much in a day or month or year as infants do, but because we are the ones that they are learning from.  As parents or caregivers, we are the primary influences in an infant’s life. They watch everything that we do (even the things we wish they didn’t). This puts us in a position of great responsibility. We are their guides to this world, teaching them how they can interact with their environment as well as with those around them. Thinking about our everyday lives, if we were more conscious that we were being watched and our actions were being analyzed, would that change our behaviours? Are we acting as the models that we’d like to be?

Now my intent is not to stress everyone out because we’re not perfect. No one is, myself included. Fortunately one of the other things we know about child development is that in order for an infant to truly learn something, they must see it (or hear) it many times over. So it’s not what we do all the time, but rather what we do most of the time that counts. We all have our moments.

As surprising as it can be when we see ourselves reflected through the words or actions of a young child, it’s also wonderful. Who doesn’t smile when they see and infant pick up a purse, wave and say “bye” or hold a baby doll to their chest as if trying to breastfeed. What a wonderful peek into the adults that they will become.

27 Jan 2011

The Importance of Social Development

No Comments ELECT, Infants, Social
Infants (0-24 months)

Social

1.1 Social Interest

  • preferring human faces to inanimate objects or animals
  • smiling at an adult
  • returning the gaze of an adult
  • seeking adults for play, stretching arms to be picked up
  • examining objects with others as a means of forming relationships
  • observing peers

Play with the infant on her physical level.

This tells her that you are available as a respectful partner in play.

First of all I have to say that I love the order in which the developmental domains are presented in the ELECT continuum. Social is first, followed by Emotional, then Communication/Language, Cognitive and Physical. I like that the Social and Emotional domains aren’t lumped together as they often are and I really appreciate that they come first in the continuum. I don’t know how the order of domains was decided but I like to believe that Social and Emotional were put first to remind us of their importance.

The relationships that we develop with young children are so important. One of the most significant tasks that we have as caregivers is to support infants and young children in developing healthy relationships. This isn’t something that we can plan for on a weekly programming sheet but developing secure and supportive relationships with the children in our care is what takes up most of our time and will form the basis for other learning experiences. Infants thrive when they feel safe and supported to explore and learn and develop at their own pace.

It is my hope that this part of the continuum will support caregivers in making the children’s learning visible to parents in these “harder to observe” domains. Also that caregivers will be able to take the words from the ELECT and use them in their conversations with parents to share their observations of the children’s development.