"The future of the world is in my classroom today." -Richard Cohen
I work with preschool children every day. I'm a teacher.
At my school, we work hard to help shape our students into polite, functioning members of society. Social skills begin to develop at a very young age. Much younger than most people think. In a weekly class (and every day in the classroom), we strive to teach 3, 4, and 5-year old children the social skills necessary to succeed...not just in a preschool classroom, but for the rest of their lives.
Believe it or not, it can be done! Every day, with just a little guidance, I hear children saying things like: "May I have that when you're done?" and the response, "Yes, you can have it when I'm done." Or, "I didn't like it when you called me that." "I'm sorry, I won't do it again."
Children can be taught these things from a very young age. Of course, I also talk the children through all kinds of negative situations...from grabbing, to hitting, to yelling...but that is a necessary part of the learning process. They'll never learn if they don't fail sometimes.
I'd like to think the lessons we teach will remain with them for the rest of their lives. At least that is my hope.
The other day, while I was guiding two of my 3-year olds through sharing a toy that they both wanted, I flashed back to two adults I had witnessed yelling at each other at the grocery store over a parking space. You can picture the scene: Curse words, loud voices, lots of gawkers.
If it had been my students, I would have said, "Use your talking voice" and "Be kind. Being mean doesn't solve anything."
Of course, I didn't say any of those things. I kept walking and went into the store to do some last-minute shopping. And I was reasonably sure that if I had intervened, the problem would not have been solved quite as easily as a preschool dispute.
But it got me thinking.
Wouldn't the world be a wonderful place if all of us followed the same rules of common courtesy that we teach our young children?
*Use a quiet talking voice.
If you use a calm, friendly voice, others will (most likely) respond to you in the same way. Yelling creates a bigger problem. And more yelling.
*If you want something, ask for it.
Chances are, you will get what you want, if not immediately, then after just a bit of a wait. And if not, come up with an alternative plan.
*Don't call each other names.
It can be upsetting, and besides, it isn't respectful. Name-calling only makes the situation worse, and makes people feel bad.
*Let others know what your intentions are.
If you are about to do something that will affect others, let them know what you intend to do and why you're doing it. People of all ages can be very understanding if they know 'why' you are doing what you're doing.
*Listen to others.
If your friend has something to say, it must be important, at least to him or her. The best of friends take the time to listen to each other. Listening is an important social skill!
*Take a deep breath.
Step back if you're feeling strong emotions like anger, excitement, sadness, etc. You can solve a problem when you are in control of your own actions, and deep breathing is a good technique for keeping your urges in check. Walk away if you feel like you're about to lose control, and come back when you can be rational. We've all (even adults) felt like hitting someone...but even though the urge is there we need to know how to control our feelings so we don't follow through on the urge.
Keep in mind, children follow our lead. They are always watching; always learning. Always imitating.
We learn just as much from them as they'll ever learn from us.
Wouldn't the world be a wonderful place if we all looked for the good instead of the bad in others?
"The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky Are also on the faces of people going by I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do They're really saying I love you
...And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world"
-Song Lyrics by Loius Armstrong