Tag Archives: Communication

Walking & Talking

We’ve all seen/heard them. Many of us know one personally. Some of us even have given birth to one of our own. They are the high energy, strong willed, emotionally intense children that challenge everyone and everything.

When these children are fully engaged in something they love to do it is magical to watch. It is a little scary too because if they are interrupted or become frustrated or bored with the activity the magic may turn to mayhem in a matter of seconds. They are impatient and easily over stimulated.

In my current little group of preschoolers I have three – yes three of these ‘difficult’, ‘spirited’, whatever you want to call them, children. Each one of these children is challenging but put all three of them together for an extended period of time and things can become volatile very quickly.

Even when, or especially when they all have the same goal they struggle to cooperate – too impulsive or competitive to work together they tend to destroy any progress that another has made. Their own intense reactions – happy, sad or mad – are further fueled by the reactions of the others. It is not that they purposely want to disrupt activities but the reaction they get from the others is exhilarating.

They all enjoy active, gross motor play but it never seems to tire them out. In fact, like little crank-up flash lights, the more energy an activity requires the more power they seem to build up. They seem to have better self control during quiet activities but tension builds silently and will eventually explode.

Five hungry children enjoying a peaceful lunch. A single noodle slips off a spoon and plops back onto the plate. Splat! That was a funny noise – someone giggles. Two children try to recreate that sound by scooping and dumping spoonfuls of noodles. Excitement and volume increase exponentially. Someone’s milk gets knocked over and they begin to cry. At this point lunch is over. No amount of talking, redirecting or reprimanding will return this situation back to a peaceful lunch.

Forget any type of circle time activities. These children love to talk. All of them have amazing vocabularies but they don’t seem to hear/understand anything anyone else says. It is far easier to get children to focus when they are outside but even in a natural outdoor environment these children will struggle with a group circle time activity. There is always someone on the other side of the circle who is smiling, makes a silly face and waits for the reaction. Of course they get it – positive or negative doesn’t matter – it was a reaction.

This is why we walk.

It is no secret that I love to go hiking. Walking alone through a forest is for me the most precious time. It is an introspective period of imagining, reflecting, dreaming, discovering. I often take children hiking but for each child/group of children the purpose of the hike is different. For some it is all about the destination. Others need the exercise or the change of scenery.

This current group of children is different. Their endless energy is never depleted – none of them ever complain that they are tired of walking. They are not concerned about our destination or the length of time it may take us to get there. For this group when we walk – we talk – and more importantly, we listen.

Maybe it is the motion or the rhythm of our steps or the constant drone of the vehicles on the street but as we walk these children and I have some of the most amazing conversations. Conversations we have never been able to have while sitting in a circle.

We talk about the things we see. We tell stories about places we have gone and things we have done. We talk about our likes and dislikes. We sing songs – together instead of competitively. We take turns talking and sharing. There are few interruptions and no pushing/grabbing/hitting because we are busy walking. Sometimes we walk for hours – they have a lot to say but it is hard for them to talk when there are too many distractions. So we walk…and talk.


Public Speaking

As a child I was always very quiet – often my family’s acquaintances questioned if I was able to speak.  Even as a teen I was generally silent when in a group setting.  After having children, becoming a member of community organizations, and opening my childcare home there were often situations where I needed to speak in group settings.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to speak to students in various classes and members of special interest groups.  Usually the topic is ‘Family Childcare’ or ‘Children & Nature’.  These events bring a mix of emotions – excitement & hesitation, enthusiasm & anxiety.

Several years ago I took a public speaking course.  During the class the instructor would, without warning, call one of us to the front of the class and give us a scenario like ‘You are a recovering drug addict speaking to city officials about the need for an inner-city treatment facility.’ There was no prep time, no notes, and usually no knowledge of the subject.

It was a terrifying.  Half the people in the class dropped out.

Each week there were also assignments such as ‘using props’, ‘adding humour’, or ‘a news report’. Everyone had the week to prepare and then to do a five minute presentation the following week.  We then received immediate feedback from the instructor and other students about our performance.

The feedback was invaluable.  No matter how difficult the week’s topic was we were able to leave the class without questioning our performance.  For me that meant no sleepless nights wondering if they understood what I was trying to say.  No anxiety over my perceived ‘mistakes’.  Instead, I clung to the positive remarks like ‘We can really feel your passion for what you do’.  Even the ‘things to work on’ were helpful instead of depressing.

Since taking that class I have learned what helps and what hinders my ability to speak out in group settings.  I won’t say I am confident in front of a group but I definitely have some tools that make these situations a little easier.

This post is already getting too long so I will continue it in a second post.  In my next post I will write about my most recent experience with public speaking.


A Day Off

Yesterday was the first inservice day of this school year so I had all the children here for the full day.  Even though the older children have enjoyed getting back to school I also think they miss the opportunity to interact with the others here.  All the school-age children attend the same school but they are in different grades so they don’t get to spend much time together.  They were so excited to spend the day together again and the younger children were thrilled to have them here too.

There was little for me to do except observe as they tried to fit in as many of their favourite activities as possible into one day.  It was amusing to watch them rush through a group dramatic play activity, sing and dance briefly in the music area, scurry up the loft steps to read a familiar book and then dash to the art area to hastily create a piece of artwork.  I don’t really think that it was the activities that they were truly interested in pursuing but rather the opportunity to reconnect with friends who they’ve had little contact with since school began.

The weather outside was amazing so we spent most of the morning outdoors.  I was curious to see if they would slow down once we got outside – a phenomenon I’ve noticed before.  It was amazing to watch as they built structures, played games and explored the yard in record time.

Using water from the rain barrel they again filled jars and built towers;

They washed the rocks to make them look pretty;

And ‘cooked’ up a dinner in the wok;

I loved the poles set up around the cooking area so that no one would get too close to the fire – safety first!

Then one of the children built a tipi;

This was new and it was quickly copied by another child;

A third child passing by the first one and elaborated on the design;

Then another tipi popped up over on the other side of the yard;

This tipi building activity was not the focus of their attention.  It seemed to be a common theme that connected then as they engaged in other activities.  Maybe it was a way of saying ‘I’m busy playing here but I see what you’re doing over there too’.  A way to make one more connection in a busy day before rushing off again.

“I’m Sorry”

Last week I read Teacher Tom’s blog post entitled ‘Hitting’.  It made me cry.

In his post, Teacher Tom outlined how they respond to hitting and other such behaviours in their cooperative preschool program.  He followed it up with a couple more posts that offer additional related information.

As always, his posts were very informative and easy to understand. His ability to articulate difficult situations always amazes me.  His focus is, as it should be, on the reason behind the behaviour — addressing the cause – teaching the children how to respond appropriately – and the importance of remaining calm.

So why did the post upset me?

It was the eighth step that he outlined in his ‘Learning Through Conflict’ plan that bothered me.  The formal apology – and again he so wonderfully explains why he doesn’t feel it is necessary.  I agree with him.

If there is one thing that drives me crazy it is the insistence that an incident isn’t over until someone says “I’m Sorry”.  His line about the initial conflict becoming “diverted into a conflict between parent and child as the former insists on the word “sorry” and the child refuses” brought back vivid images of an incident that happened very early in my childcare career.

At home time, a mom and I were standing at the front door engaged in a conversation.  Her three year old daughter was waiting patiently.  She was not interrupting us.  She was not jumping or climbing or playing with stuff in the cubbies.  She was simply waiting, one hand on the wall for support, one foot on the ground and the other foot swinging back and forth.  She was humming a song, swinging her leg, and waiting – wonderfully.

Then she kicked me.

It wasn’t done on purpose and I was not hurt.  The child immediately realized her mistake and froze. Two tiny hands clamped over her mouth and tears welling up in her eyes as she stared up at me. I put my hand on her shoulder and told her it was ok – I knew it was an accident and she hadn’t meant to do it.  There was really no actual conflict. It should have ended here, but it didn’t.

Her mother sprang into action.  Lecturing about how kicking hurts people and demanding that she apologize.  The child started to sob; shaking and crying and unable to speak.  Her exasperated mother apologized to me for her child’s behaviour, took her by the hand and hurried out the door.

But even then it was not over.  More than an hour later the phone rang and when I answered it the mother said “My daughter has something to say to you”.  She then handed the phone to the sobbing three-year-old who managed to sputter “I’m sorry I kicked you” before putting down the phone and wailing. 

So was it over now? Were the words “I’m Sorry” really necessary?  I don’t think so, at least not in this case. In fact, for me they made it worse.  Teacher Tom says he will not judge you if you insist that your child apologizes – but I might.

The real point I wanted to make though is the importance of letting those involved in the conflict work it out themselves. A conflict is resolved when those involved in it are ok with the outcome.  It doesn’t matter if the observer doesn’t think the outcome is correct or fair.

Certainly guidance from a bystander can be helpful sometimes – especially for those with little experience settling conflicts.  Suggestions can be useful if there is an impasse but if those involved are attempting to resolve the issue there is absolutely no need to intervene.

Here, if the children have an issue they are given the opportunity to work it out.  If necessary they can be separated from the group to prevent outside interference.  Assistance is available if required but after the dispute is resolved and there is peace again it is over.

Was their solution fair?  Was it correct?  That’s not for me to decide.  Did someone say “I’m Sorry”?  Maybe not but those words are not what is important.