THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR POSITIVE CHILD GUIDANCE
There is one big message behind all child guidance methods and actions: “We accept and care for you, but your behavior is not accepted.” This is huge for young children; they really need to know that their behavior can be separate from their very worth as a human being.
Children are ego-centric by nature. This simply means that they are very self-focused. They perceive everything directly through the lens of their own experience. As children get older, they develop empathy and eventually learn how to take the perspective of another person.
When children are young, it’s all about how the world affects them. They take offense easily when something goes wrong or they are left out. They often act selfishly without a clue about how their actions affect others. This perspective is nothing they have control over. It is simply a normal reflection of their emotional development. Adults can help young children with their self-focused behaviors and reactions, teaching them to think beyond themselves every day.
Children must be taught to separate their acceptance as a human being and inappropriate behavior. Because of their ego-centric viewpoint, children will automatically connect their human acceptance with their behavior. They behave well, they are accepted and cared for. They don’t behave well, they are rejected and unloved.
Unfortunately, this behavior-acceptance perspective often endures into adulthood. Children must be taught consistently to separate these two concepts. When a child can carry this lesson into their adult years, they are better equipped to deal with relationships and social situations. Even if you are not sure that the children in your care completely understand this lesson every time, keep the big message going strong. Take heart that you are planting positive seeds to bloom for years to come.
Positive guidance techniques teach a child to trust that the adult is there to help them. The adult is both the authority figure and the nurturer. Sometimes adults put too much of the balance on the authority figure role and not enough on the nurturer role. This becomes all about the rules with little trust from the child.
On the opposite end, children can be given mostly nurturing and not very strong guidance. While this might seem to be better, it also diminishes trust because the adult is too inconsistent with rules. The child cannot count on the adult to hold a firm line when needed. Going to both extremes of authority and nurturing keeps trust low. It’s best to create a good harmony between the two, recognizing the strengths of both actions.
The acceptance and nurturing relationship is the foundation of the positive child guidance process. Children are more likely to go with the rules and relax when they know that the adult cares. Initiate and establish warmth between you and the child as you get to know each other.
When enforcing the rules, plan each time to respond with understanding, empathy, and consistency. It can be a challenge to establish warmth with a child who has a difficult or inhibited temperament, or a diagnosis like ADHD or autism. These kids need your warm relationship as much or more than the other kids. They already have more than the average amount of challenges in their way.
No matter what child you are giving guidance to, make every effort to confirm the big message stated earlier – “We accept and care for you, but your behavior is not accepted.”
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