This week I remembered a powerful lesson when it comes to working with young children. I remembered to wait. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this briefly in other articles, but my realization this week was so profound that I wanted to discuss it in length.
I know that when working with children it tends to involve a lot of hustle and bustle in getting through the daily routine, getting the children to the next transition or just getting through the day! We get so wrapped up in what we’re doing we sometimes lose sight of the little things like just sitting back and watching children play or giving ourselves a moment to breathe. When working with children, we get to know them so well. We can usually predict or guess about what they might say or do. When one child raises his hand during story time, we can guarantee the story he shares won’t have anything to do with the book. When one little girl goes to the bathroom you know you’ll have to remind her to wash her hands because she forgot, and so on and so forth. But sometimes, they surprise us! These are the moments we have to be aware of.
A couple of weeks ago I went back to work part-time at one of my old positions just to lend a helping hand (and give myself something to do) for the summer. I started working with kids that I knew a long time ago, but mostly kids I didn’t know. I’m still getting to know their personalities though at times I’ve felt like I knew what they were going to say or do, and I didn’t.
Here’s one story that happened to me this week that reminded me to WAIT, to take my time, to listen. We were in a busy transition period. Some kids were going through the bathroom, some were waiting to go outside, some were finishing clean up and activities, and some were dressing to go outside. I was somewhere in the middle of all of these things. One little girl grabbed something out of her cubby as she was heading outside, a random costume she had worn to school that morning. Immediately I thought, “okay, she wants to wear this instead of her coat and I’m going to have to get her to leave it and get a coat”, this happened to be a cold and rainy June day. I told her something along the lines of “put that back in your cubby for going outside.” She gave me a confused yet sad sort of look, I knew then and there that she had a different idea in her head. She explained to me sadly, “well, it doesn’t fit me anymore. I wanted to give it to one of the little kids.” My heart! I hugged this sweet girl and took this moment in. I told of course she could give it to this girl (after she asked her mom at pick up time) to which she did, and her mom said yes, and she made this girl’s day at the end of school.
After this scenario, I noticed it happening again with small things. I noticed myself again beginning to intervene or say something when I didn’t fully know what the kids were thinking, or about to do or say. We want to get involved and start to save or help kids before they struggle but most times, I don’t think they want or even need our help! They are capable and confident learners.
This is our reminder to watch, wait, and listen to kids before we react or judge or assume that we know best. Kids can teach us just as much as we teach them, if not more.
Meghan is a born and raised Montanan, mama to a rambunctious toddler and a bonus mom to two amazing preteens. She recently earned a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education. In addition to her position as an Early Childhood Specialist at the University of Montana, Meghan enjoys a variety of odd mix of jobs; nannying, creating and selling travel play dough kits, making essential oil blends for kids, providing families with child guidance on Facebook and Instagram, and now providing ideas and tips to child care providers in partnership with Raise Montana! Meghan is also a content contributor for 406 Families, a site dedicated to connecting families to local events and resources.