Today we focus on another of the Health and Social Care Standards, in relation to the day to day ethos of life at Stramash Outdoor Nursery.
- I have Confidence in the organisation providing my care and support
Wellbeing: 4.25 I am confident that people are encouraged to be innovative in the way they support and care for me.
“The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way’.”
Care of children is an evolving landscape. Our attitudes towards children as a society (and I speak from a western bias as cultural norms are somewhat unique) has changed a lot over the last 150 years. We are no longer sending children down mines or into mills, and have appropriate protection for children and childhood in the form of the Childcare Act 2006 and the UN Rights of The Child 1998 amongst others.
However, let it never be said that our evolution is over. That all children are now safe, protected, cared for, happy and learning at optimum levels. As research continues, enlightening us to new information and evidence and our own individual experience as parents and practitioners develops, so too should our approach.
It is ok to change your mind. It is ok to do something that your own parents didn’t. It is ok to say ‘Actually this works for us, so we are going to do that’ even if that is not currently the ‘mainstream thinking’ on a matter.
Our kids don’t have to share.
There, I’ve said it. It’s in big, bold, middle of the page type! No sand timers, clocks or beepers.
Just for a moment think about something you really value. Maybe it’s your car, or your home, your favourite book given to you as a small child, or even your spouse! You are happily going about your business, driving your car or reading your book and another adult approaches you. They want what you’ve got. They might start by asking nicely “but I said please!” or they might just push you and grab it off you.
You (quite understandably) get very upset. You might cry or fight back to protect what’s yours.
At this point another adult intervenes. They seem to understand and they attempt to calm the situation down, they are loving and comforting and you feel better for a moment. However now they are saying that you have to ‘share’. So because someone else wants what you have, you are obliged to let them have it. You don’t get a choice, that’s ‘what’s fair’.
Do we have to share things as adults if we don’t want to? How would we feel about the person we were forced to share with if that were the case?
When we were growing up my sister and I used to drive my mother insane. We were always ‘borrowing’ each others things (not always with the consent of the other – ok rarely with the consent of the other) on discovery of such treachery all hell would break loose and my mother would be made judge and jury to preside over the trial. Her argument was always “You would give your sister a kidney if she needed it, why are you getting so upset about a t-shirt?”
She was right of course, but that didn’t make us any more likely to share in the future. This constant battle also drove a wedge between us that took a fair amount of time to grow out of (don’t worry, we’re good pals now – and besides I don’t fit in her clothes anymore!)
Our understanding of children both from a social and Neuro scientific understanding is improving all the time. We are beginning to understand that forcing or shaming them into compliance with arbitrary rules (that will not apply as they reach adulthood) maybe isn’t the solid foundation we are trying to create.
You can’t teach empathy. Another bold statement I know, but go with me for a minute. Empathy (being able to see things from another’s perspective and have that adjust your approach or behaviour) is a learned skill. We have to experience it, have the opportunity to practice it and observe it in others.
One of the techniques we’ve found really helpful when dealing with sharing conflicts with children is sportscasting – describing the actions, feelings and emotions we can see projected from both parties during a disagreement.
E.g. Child A is playing with a watering can, child B wants watering can, child A refuses to give it to them
To child A “You are busy playing with the watering can and child B has tried to take it from you. This has made you upset”
To child B “You really want the watering can and child A has it. This is making you frustrated. You don’t want to wait until he’s finished”
At this point we have a choice – and it will depend on the age, stage of development and how experienced your child/ren are at independently problem solving – for example if they have been forced to share for some time they may have developed some pretty strong resource guarding instincts.
We might ask the children if they can come up with a solution which makes everyone happy, whilst reiterating gently that ‘child A is using that just now, I’m sure you can use it when they’ve finished, could we find you another one/something else to complete the task’?
Or we might take a more direct approach
To child A “I see that you are still busy with the watering can and are not ready to give it to child B yet. Do you think child B could use it when you are finished?”
To child B “It can feel like a long time when we’re waiting for something, shall we go and do something else while we’re waiting?”
This approach allows both children to hear how the other is experiencing the situation. It might not change their own feelings on it in that moment, but they are getting to experience ‘empathy in action’. This learning opportunity would be completely missed if one was to set a timer or enforce turn taking, they would also learn to look to someone else (an adult) to resolve conflict.
In our experience It also removes the heightened emotion from the situation. A child immersed in play is respected and does not need to fear losing the resource, the anxiety is not building as they watch the sand fall through the timer, this allows them to relax and play through the cycle – often abandoning a resource faster and moving on to something else than they would have previously. This in turn (along with a sufficient number of resources and play spaces) reduces these sorts of incidents in general.
As the philosophy becomes more ingrained children are more able to resolve their own conflicts at a superior emotional level – confidently but respectfully. It becomes habit to find something else to do or just calmly sit and wait for your turn on the swing. We have also seen older children more readily share, offer an alternative or take a shorter turn because they understand being ‘the waiter’.
As you start the process you may get children who become stuck in their own emotions of the situation, this is perfectly normal (they REALLY want the watering can!) We just gently remind them that we totally understand how they feel, we are not going to take it away from child A, and we are here if they want some help finding a substitute or company while they’re waiting.
We began implementing our ‘no forced sharing’ policy about 9 months ago and can honestly say we would never go back. So here’s to more innovative and organically developing practice.
And if you’re thinking “You cannot compare a watering can in the hands of a toddler to my car!” then check out this great video below.