Today I had an opportunity to remember how one needs to develop one's own imagination so as to deal creatively with a potential discipline problem with young children. What happened was both typical and easily dealt with - so I thought I'd share it with you all!
I have a friend who lives near-by who runs a Waldorf-inspired day care out of her home. She phoned me and asked if she and her children could come by this morning to trick or treat. They do this every year- and before they come she brings round a basket of healthy treats that she has baked or gives me some little something to give them. This year it was a little strip of stickers for each child.
So at around 10:30 this morning a little band of 6 children dressed in their Halloween costumes came to my door with my friend. "Trick or treat" they chorused. I came out and exclaimed over their costumes (I was a bit sad to see that every one of them was store-bought. I guess parents who send their children to day care don't have time to make costumes with them) and we had a lovely little visit. I gave each a strip of stickers. My friend had supplied each child with a zip-lock baggie (printed with her name) to hold her treats. Before they came to my house they had visited another house and each child had received a little rubber mouse.
Suddenly one child said "I want to play with my mouse" - this was after she and several others had already dropped their mice a couple of times (these children were between about 2 1/2 and 3 1/2). My friend knelt down and gently said "We must put our mice in the bags". The child protested and I could hear in her voice that she was getting agitated. The others also looked set to take out their mice and a full scale rebellion was in the works!
So I jumped in: "You know, those little mice need nice little nests so that they can go to sleep, warm and snug in your bags." I bent down and picked up some leaves from my porch. I opened the little girl's bag and put the leaves inside. "Now you have a lovely nest for your mouse to sleep in". Hey presto! She was thrilled and immediately put her mouse in the nest and was happy for my friend to zip up her bag so she wouldn't lose her mouse. The other children were also interested so I said "Let's get some leaves for your mice, too!" We spent a few happy minutes gathering fallen leaves, putting them in their bags and nestling the mice in them. Everyone was happy, the children were cooperative because they had been "disciplined" (ie brought into form) in a way that was consistent with their developmental stage. And my friend was happy becasue the children were content - and she didn't have to cope with a temper tantrum or lost Halloween mice! It was a win-win situation.
Young children under 7 are in the imitative phase of life. What they see, they do. Their will forces need to be engaged, not their latent thinking processes - so we "do" with them. Verbal appeals or exhortations break little ice with very young children and this has nothing to do with them being contrary, difficult, strong willed etc etc. It has to do with the fact that they live primarily through the activity of their bodies - and addressing them through their will forces and imitative powers is the way to help them through the day. And....the third piece we must keep in mind is the power of imagination - by creating a scenario or an image, we can harness positive forces which are in every child by igniting their imaginations and being or doing at the same time. "Let's be lions getting into our den" as we get into the car. "Mama bird has to strap baby bird into his car seat so we can fly through the air together". "Mama bear is eating up all her good soup - let's see Little Bear eat hers!" And so on.
Need more help with this? Have a listen to my audio downloads on Talking Pictorially, Pre-K at Home and The Changing Face of Disciple, three of our audio downloads available in our Bookstore which address this subject in depth.