Nurturing Children 2

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Module 2 - Interacting with Children  

Taken from Training Guides for the Head Start Learning Community    

Successful completion of this Programmed Learning Packet will provide you with one hour of training (.1 CEU).

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In this module, participants focus on communication with children. They will gain an understanding of how talking and listening to children can provide insight to an individual child's interests and needs while helping the child gain a positive self-concept in a supportive environment.

 

Outcomes As a result of completing this module, participants will be able to:
bulletListen to children in order to understand their individual needs, perceptions and interests
bulletTalk to children in ways that support their positive self-concept and address their individual needs
Key Concepts
bulletLanguage facilitates development.
bulletChildren model adult behaviors.
bulletChildren are always learning.

Background Information

Children do not enter programs as blank pages. All children have abundant background knowledge; experience; and personal, familial, and cultural characteristics. It is fundamental that adults understand each child's individual needs, perceptions, and interests if they are going to work successfully with children. Children's development is influenced by many factors, including the experiences they have. Development is much more than a simple unfolding along a a predictable sequence. It is a dynamic process in which adults play a critical role. Being in the right place; being tuned in to a child; listening; asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions; or helping to expand their play are all ways that adults can nurture children. The nature and extent of adult interactions with children are vital factors in supporting and extending development.

Children and Language

To say that language facilitates development actually understates the connection. Children use language to solve problems and to master their own behavior. For example, many toddlers exclaim, No! when they approach an electrical outlet. Sometimes speech is so important that children cannot accomplish a learning task if they are not allowed to use it.

Praise vs. Encouragement

Because children take words very literally, it is important for you to be positive and encouraging in the messages you send. Although it is true that a positive self-concept is an important ingredient for learning, the practice of lavishing praise on children for all accomplishments is not likely to be successful. Praise judges a child's work, rather than describing it and allowing the child to make a judgment. Praise is usually broad and vague, rather than specific. Praise puts the emphasis on the adult's response to something rather than the child's perception of his or her work. In fact, vary little evidence shows that such adult comments give children greater confidence; however, quite a bit of evidence indicates that they can have exactly the reverse effect. Praise may create anxiety, reduce risk-taking, invite dependency, and reduce adult credibility.

Of course is is important for adults to respond positively to children, and staff do this through encouragement. Encouragement is a positive acknowledgement that is specific and focuses on the child's process of doing something rather than the adult's judgment. Encouragement never compares on child to another.

Here are some examples of both praise and encouragement:

bulletWhat a great drawing! (praise)
bulletTell me about your painting. (encouragement)
bulletwhat a good job cleaning up. (praise)
bulletShow me how you did that. (encouragement)

 

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Exercise 1

Identify each statement in the two columns as praise or encouragement.
Place the correct number in the box: 1 - Praise or 2 - Encouragement
1. Praise
Encouragement
What a wonderful painting. 2. Praise
Encouragement
You cleaned up that mess.
3.

Praise
Encouragement

Show me how you did that. 4.

Praise
Encouragement

I like that bow in your hair.
5.

Praise
Encouragement

Tell me about this house that you've built. 6.

Praise
Encouragement

What a good job of cleaning up.
7.

Praise
Encouragement

That's great. 8.

Praise
Encouragement

I like the way Maria is listening.
9.

Praise
Encouragement

You organized all the blocks by color. 10.

Praise
Encouragement

You look excited about what you brought today.

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Learning: An Ongoing Process

Children are learning all the time. This is why children's programs cannot be accurately described as have learning activities in the morning and recreation in the afternoon. Children are learning whenever they are interacting - with each other, with adults, with objects in their environment.

Learning is never confined to a table, a time of day, or a stage. Learning is everywhere and lifelong. Day-to-day, real-life experiences are necessary hooks on which to hang future learning. The word farm is meaningless to the child who has not seen one. Night can be described only if a child can recall the sight, sound, and feel of night. Experiences are absolutely essential to successful learning.

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Role of Adults in the Learning Process

Adults play a very important role in extending children's learning by recognizing when a child is absorbed in a learning task and appreciating a child's efforts to organize knowledge. Adults can nurture children with their presence, language, and materials. Independence and self-motivation are essential to lifelong learning. Children need to value such built-in rewards as becoming more interested and competent as opposed to less essential rewards such as letter grades or adult praise.

All adults working with children are privileged to observe, appreciate, and assist in their development. Interactions with children are most helpful when they are positive, playful, understanding, and cued by the children. Therefore, it is important for adults to provide a supportive environment for children that encourages them in specific ways without judging or placing a value on what they are doing. Such encouragement is delivered in a sincere, direct way in a natural voice.

Because adults are models for children's behavior, it is very important that adults be good participants: be flexible and curious and have a sense of adventure and a love of learning. If adults are bored, so are children. If adults are energetic, positive, and hopeful, so are children. Children watch what the driver does when the bus breaks down, what the cook does when the electricity goes out, what the director does when a conflict arises - and they learn. Hopefully, they see adults who are flexible in unforeseen circumstances, who problem-solve rather than blame, and who are cheerful and realistic. Many intellectual gains are made in everyday living: replacing a light bulb is as valuable a cognitive task as matching dominoes.

 

Exercise 2

Identify each statement in the two columns as positive or negative.
Place the correct number in the box: 1 - Positive or 2 - Negative
11.

Positive
Negative

Tell me about it. 12.

Positive
Negative

Tell me some more.
13.

Positive
Negative

You've had your turn. 14.

Positive
Negative

That's interesting.
15.

Positive
Negative

Keep it down. 16.

Positive
Negative

Clean up that mess.
17.

Positive
Negative

It's not good manners to interrupt. 18.

Positive
Negative

Don't interrupt.
19.

Positive
Negative

I'd like to hear about it. 20.

Positive
Negative

You just want attention.

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Time to Listen

It seems that adults treat children like adults in terms of listening skills. Observe "listening time" between caregivers and children. All too often adults do not wait for a child's response or the adult will "hurry" a child to give a response by asking the question again, or asking, "Well?", or by answering for the child. Since children have not yet developed the range of perceptions that adults have, it may take them longer to get a perspective on the words said to them to give a response that is meaningful to them.

Key issues that might influence adult "waiting" time in listening skills:

bulletWhat do you feel like if you are involved in a conversation with someone who does not give you time to speak and who does all the talking?
bulletWhat kind of responses do think a child will give if pressured to answer too quickly?
bulletIs is possible that adults might equate quickness with smartness?
bulletIs waiting for a response difficult because of the adult's uncomfortableness with silence?

Nonjudgmental Responses

Another important task of listening adults is to provide a communication environment that is not threatening to the child. How can a child be encouraged to speak if their is a better chance of risk than reward?

Examine the following response patterns adults may use with children. Would any of these encourage you to continue a conversation or initiate another conversation?

bulletDenying the problem: A child expresses a feeling or observation about self or situation and the adult minimizes or communicates that it isn't really that way. Example:
bulletChild - "I don't feel good."
bulletAdult - "You'll be OK."
bulletBlaming the child: A child expresses a feeling or observation about self or situation and the adult communicates to the child that it's his/her own fault. Example:
bulletChild - "I hurt my knee."
bulletAdult - "It's your own fault. You shouldn't be running."
bulletSolving the child's problem: A child expresses a feeling or observation about self or situation and the adult communicates to the child what the child should do. This may not allow the child to talk more about how they feel and it implies that the adult is their real problem-solver and the child is helpless. Example:
bulletChild - "They won't play with me."
bulletAdult - "Just stay here with me and help set the table."
bulletInterpreting: A child expresses a feeling or observation about self or situation and the adult gives a diagnosis. This could cause uncomfortableness, feeling misunderstood, and add to the original problem. Example:
bulletChild - "I don't like to drink milk."
bulletAdult - "Your mama is not feeding you right."
bulletQuestioning: A child expresses a feeling or observation about self or situation and the adult grills the child and as far as the child is concerned makes a bad situation worse. Example:
bulletChild - "They don't like me."
bulletAdult - "Who said they didn't like you? What did you do to them?"
bulletThreatening: A child expresses a feeling or observation about self or situation and the adult communicates to the child that there will be negative consequences. Example:
bulletChild - "He took the book I was reading."
bulletAdult - "If you hit him, I'm going to have to talk to your mom about that."

To develop communication skills with children will require the use of open-ended, other oriented responses. If we want children to talk to us we must provide an avenue of interest for the children and that is often themselves. Examples of responses that encourage children to talk about themselves would be:

bullet"You seem upset."
bullet"You think they don't like you."
bullet"Tell me about it."
bullet"Go on, I'm listening."
bullet"He took your book?"

 

Exercise 3

21 If I tell a child what their problem is, for example, "You feel left out since the new baby came home." This would be an example of
Denying the Problem
Blaming the Child
Interpreting
Threatening
22 If a child complains that another child hit him and I respond, "Go play at the computer table. You like that." This would be an example of
Questioning
Solving the Problem
Interpreting
Threatening
23 If a child tells me that others do not want to play with her, and I say, "That's because you hit them sometimes." This would be an example of
Questioning
Solving the Problem
Interpreting
Blaming the Child

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After completing this instrument, provide your Staff ID number, click you work "content area" and "job location". Forward to the Training Department. Your name is verification that you have read and understood the content of this module and have completed this learning program in good faith, and are willing to practice the principles outlined.

First Name      ,           Last Name              HSGD Staff ID#      
Your Content Area                   Job Location     ,


Nurturing Children: Module 2

                      

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