Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Thinking Of Things Themselves And Then Doing Them


Two freshly-minted three-year-olds were playing on the floor, not together, but near one another. I was lying amidst them, fiddling with whatever came to hand. The boy picked up a toy that was meant to impersonate a tiny version of the cast iron hand pump we have on our playground. After a moment, the boy said, perhaps to me, "Hey, it's a pump!"

The girl responded, "I want it."

That's what we had been working toward for months, the kids ask for things they want rather than just snatching them. The boy continued playing with the toy pump without saying a word. I briefly considered saying, "When you're finished with that, she wants it," but let the urge pass. The boy silently played with the toy for 30 seconds longer, then unceremoniously handed it to her. I was going to say something about that as well, some words of acknowledgement or even praise, but again thought better of it.

A five-year-old once told me, unprompted, as if it was something he'd given a lot of thought, "I don't like doing things people tell me to do. I like thinking of them myself and then doing them." Of course, that's how we all feel, right through our lives.

Adults say entirely too much to children, most of it either commands, which no one likes, or blather, to which no one listens. For whatever reason, we seem to feel that children are not listening simply because they don't respond to things like well-trained dogs. When the boy hadn't instantly acknowledged the girl's statement that she wanted the toy by saying, "I'm using it" or "You can use it when I'm done" or by simply handing it over, I was sorely tempted to say something, to amplify or translate or suggest. It was almost as if that silent space left after the girl said "I want it" was there for me to fill with blather.

And I know that whatever I said would have been blather because by remaining silent, I discovered that not only had the boy been listening, but it had prompted him to think. In that space of silence, he considered the information she had provided him, thought of what to do, and did it. He needed no reward from me, no pat on the back or "Good job," no benevolent overlord wielding carrots, sticks, commands, or blather.

We had been working toward this moment, all of us, this moment of silence and thinking and role modeling. As adults, we had been thoughtful and judicious about how we spoke with the children and that had created the space for them to think for themselves instead of reacting to our words.

This is how free and equal humans are meant to live together: thinking of things themselves and doing them, and that is its own reward.

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If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

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