I am a mother, and I’ve worked with young children for the past fifteen years, both as a preschool teacher, and later as the Director. I have to tell you, I dearly loved those children. I often got comments from people outside of the childcare setting who wondered how I could spend my days with that many small children (about 170 total) and not pull my hair out. Truth be told, I wondered how they spent their days doing what THEY did-I guess we’re all cut from different cloth for a reason!
The thing that stands out to me about toddlers and preschoolers is that they’re all just little versions of us. They all have their own unique personalities, traits, likes and dislikes. It amazes me when people think they’re just this drooling little blob that is just like the next little drooling blob down the street, and totally unaware of the world around them! Sure, they can be possessive, demanding, impatient…but don’t we all know adults who behave the very same way? Of course we do-it just all comes down to being a human being in this world. We all get tired, hungry, or frustrated that things don’t go our way-and no matter what our age, those factors affect our mood and reactions.
As Director of the preschool, I often counseled teachers on dealing with behavior problems and I found myself saying again and again, “They are all individuals. You can’t expect them to all act the same…they aren’t robots and we don’t live in a world of cookie cutter children.” The very thing that frustrates so many people about children is what I think should be the very thing that is celebrated about young children. They are “fresh” enough that the world hasn’t gotten to them yet. Their personalities haven’t been dictated by the world’s “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”. In that respect, they have a leg up on some of us adults. They may not know WHY they want to play with the yellow dump truck every single day, but by golly they know that beautiful hunk of yellow plastic is their favorite; and depending on the age and personality of the child, no one better stand in the way between them and that dump truck!
Of course, as the responsible adults in children’s lives, it’s our job to guide them, and help them realize it’s not the end of the world if Susie plays with the dump truck too, and that it’s not o.k. to snatch a chunk of Susie’s hair out to get said dump truck. We do, after all, want children to behave in a manner that is socially acceptable, and we want to raise children to be kind, responsible adults. I do, however, hope we can all just take a breath sometimes, and celebrate each little person that is just trying to figure out what this big confusing world is all about. I know I’m right there with them at times, still trying to figure it all out! Rather than being frustrated because they won’t eat their broccoli, maybe we should remember that there are foods WE don’t like either! Instead of lamenting the fact that they won’t take their nap, or they only sleep six hours at night no matter what, perhaps we can realize that may just be THEIR natural rhythm. In the end, it all really is o.k.
I’ll leave you with one of my all-time favorite quotes from the beloved Dr. Seuss:
“A person’s a person no matter how small.”
I think I should have to agree, Sam I am.