Early Childhood Education Blog

Saying “I am sorry”

Organic food, starting Kindergarten at 5 or waiting until 6, co-sleeping are all debatable topics with young children.  Teaching them, or should I say making them, say they are sorry is also an interesting topic.  Children, by nature, are concerned with themselves.  Some may say "egocentric." They aren't overly concerned about what others around them are feeling, thinking or doing for the first few years of life. Parents and Teachers become involved when two children have an altercation.  Or something happens and they need to step in.  After both sides are heard, often times the adult says "tell him/her you are sorry."  The child looks down and mumbles "sorry." Then they run off and continue their day. Maybe it is because I see people use the word "sorry" very loosely or maybe because if I say I am sorry, I am truly very sorry for the mistake I made.  I watch it with my own children.  My daughters tip over their water and spill it over the cooked food on a regular basis (they are 5 and 10 years old).  The first time, their look of shock and apology was real.  They felt badly they just ruined the hot food. Fast forward to the 10th time they did it and with the "how can we avoid doing this anymore question that arose" their response was "sorry, we didn't mean to."  Obviously they didn't, but the sorries aren't also really helpful.  Lets focus on stopping the action that requires the sorry. For an effective apology, children need to understand their actions. They don't need a lecture, per se, they do need to know the effects of their actions, though. They should know what result happened by their action. If they pushed a child off the slide and they got hurt, they should know they hurt the child.  Again, not in a lecture type format but "Look at Johnny's hand and knees, by pushing him off the slide, he got hurt." The timing for this conversation is also important. Immediately after the action, the other child is likely screaming which is a loud environment to have a calm conversation with the child that pushed them.  However you don't want to wait for 10 mins and then go back and coach on behaviors. The idea that I love the most is asking "what can you do next time" or "how can we make it right."  Taking it one step further, we can't change the action or result of what happened but we can do something extra kind to the person we hurt or honestly any person as an extra step of understanding we need to be kind to each other. Since kindness is contagious, maybe that idea of doing something extra kind instead of focusing on saying sorry might have a strong rippling effect among children. Lastly--as I always seem to wrap up--we are the adults.  We are the examples.  Show them that you are sincerely sorry when you make a mistake (and possibly take the "I will do this to make it right" path) to show that we are not perfect and we were kids too (long ago!)...

Effects of Yelling on young children

We have all had moments where we need to count backwards from 10.  Your two children were just wrestling in the living room and you asked them five times not to knock over something because it was going to break.  What did they do? Didn't listen and knocked it over and it broke all over the floor and themselves. Raising voices or "yelling" at children illicit a "fight or flight" response and really should only be used in signs of trouble (thinking of when your child is about to run across a busy road).  Their bodies (heart rate, breathing rate, and increased stress response) react to the situation.  When they are being yelled at for something outside of a true sign of trouble, it still has that response. Maybe they aren't getting ready fast enough?  Well, yelling at them to "hurry up" is going to be a missed point because they are focused on the loudness of your voice rather than what you are saying. What does it teach children?  Yelling at children on a regular basis teaches them to yell or be aggressive to others.  They look to caretakers and adults as their mentors, so to speak.  So if we walk around yelling, they will think that is the way to handle conflict.  Yelling is also not effective.  There are many studies out there about whether or not yelling at children is detrimental to their development. Positive guidance.  This term may not be too understood outside of the Early Childhood Field, but you can probably guess what it references.  Children respond better to "in the hallways we walk because if we run we might get hurt," instead of "STOP RUNNING."  In fact, children's minds only hear "RUNNING." Have you ever noticed you tell a child to stop something and they literally do the same thing you just said to stop?  Their minds hear the last part. Why?  As adults need to understand the "whys" for something. So do children.  If your boss tells you to run a report a certain way or build a widget a certain way; for you to fully "get it" you probably want to know why?  Is my boss just asking me to run the report that way because he wants to tell me what to do? Or perhaps the report needs to be ran that way because the data in the report is then used for something else (that you are not responsible for). The same is true for children.  You can tell them not to run all day, but will have better results if you tell them why they can't run. Below are a few ideas to use when children are not listening before your voice increases to a yelling volume: --Say "raise your hand if you hear me."  Say it calmly and don't try to talk over them. --Count to 10 or 100 (depending on the situation) and take a few deep breaths before reacting. --Walk away (if you can) --Acknowledge what the child/ren are doing. "I asked you to get dressed and you are still playing with your toys." --Calmly talk about how you feel. "When I ask you do something and you don't do it, I feel frustrated." We are the adults and it is our job to teach children how to grow up and be great adults!...