Roots & Wings ... Wings
Last month we begin the discussion of what “roots & wings” means in regards to helping children grow and develop to their fullest potential. We touched upon ways we can help encourage roots during the holiday season, and why nurturing these roots is important year round. As promised, this month we are going to talk about the other half – the “wings” that we want to give our children.
As we began last month, let’s look at how the dictionary defines “wings”. Dictionary.com defines wing as “either of the two forelimbs of most birds and of bats, corresponding to the human arms, that are specialized for flight…to travel on or as if on wings; fly; soar”. I like relating the term “wings” to human arms since this part of the definition reminds us that as humans we are also part of the animal kingdom, and brings us back to looking at our children from a developmental, a biological, perspective when we examine the best ways to help our children grow and develop. I also like how the definition states that wings are used to “soar”. As I stated in last month’s blog, our job as parents and as professionals is to help our children achieve independence, to reach their fullest potential, to help them to soar. Once again, the metaphor of “roots and wings” becomes essential to our work with children.
What are some essential ways that we can help our children, whether as a parent or as a professional, to develop “wings”, to soar? Developing independence is something that begins early in life. We need to continually find ways to encourage our children to think and to analyze and to question, leading to evolving problem solving skills which will serve them throughout life. If we give children the answers without helping them ask the questions, we are neglecting to help them develop life skills. Let’s look at conflict resolution as an example.
How many parents, and professionals, have intervened when they see two young children arguing? My guess is most of us have had that experience. The simple solution I most often see is that the children are told by the adult what action they should take to resolve the conflict, such as “share with your friend”, “say you’re sorry”, “be nice”. While all these suggestions may work short-term, and provide peace and harmony in the eye of the adult, what these solutions do not do is offer the children an opportunity to learn how to problem solve, to resolve their own conflicts. Children learn by doing. Childhood is a learning opportunity to prepare for adulthood. Interventions by adults should guide and encourage children to develop skills, not merely solve the issue.
In our example above, instead of telling the children how to resolve their issue, ask them questions to help generate a solution. Let each of the children tell their side. Ask each child to offer a solution, and help each child to find the words to express to the other child their thoughts. Phrases such as “How can you play together with the toy?”, or “Tell Ethan how you felt when he hit you”, empower the children to work together, to communicate, to generate a solution that they own. Stay with the children until you are sure they are not going to hurt each other, but accept their solution even if not your idea of resolution. For example, the solution may be that the children decide they are not friends right now, that they do not want to continue to play together – that is ok! We are not all friends all the time. The goal is to empower the children to decide. Set up boundaries for conflict resolution with your children, or the group of children in your care, before issues arise, so you have a starting point when you encounter a conflict. Let’s talk more about these boundaries next time.
Happy 2017 from KIDapp, as we welcome another year to live life through the eyes of a child!