I send weekly emails to the parents of my students. I find that this form of communication is an effective way to keep the parents in the loop. After all, preschoolers don’t really go home and share in detail what happens in school.
Here is part of the email that I sent last Friday.
The Power of No
Children can say NO to me. When it is time to clean up to prepare for another activity, a child can say, “No, not yet!”, if he needs more time to complete a puzzle or to finish an artwork.
But the key is to let me know. If a child does not say anything, I will assume that:
a) the child did not hear me (at which case, I will think that the child has hearing problems or auditory processing issues); or
b) the child is choosing to ignore me (at which case, the consequence is that particular activity may not be an option for the child the next time).
The child has to respond respectfully. If I have a few more minutes to spare, then I will let him continue. If not because of our tight schedule, then I will offer to put the project aside to be worked on later, or I can suggest to take a photo of it if it cannot be saved.
My intention is to teach the child not only to be assertive, but also to respond appropriately to request/command.
We have been practicing to say– I am not done yet, may I have a few more minutes please?
This is my philosophy with my own children too. When I call them for dinner and they are in a middle of setting up their army soldiers, they can nicely ask me if they can have a few more minutes to play. If we are not running late, I will give them that extra time.
But if doing so would mess up our schedule, then I would say, “Sorry, not this time”.
It was difficult to do this at first, but when they realized that I was saying “no” not to be mean, they appreciated our system.
Now, this goes against the Philippine culture of respecting the elders–where children are expected to do everything that they are told without question.
During trips to the Philippines when my children were younger, they were always expected to give relatives (strangers, if you ask my children) a hug and a kiss. If they don’t do it (and I would totally leave it up to my children to decide), I would not hear the end of it.
Within earshot of everyone concerned, I would say to my children, “It is okay if you don’t want to give a hug right now, maybe later when you get to know tita more. But you have to give some sort of acknowledgement–be respectful and say hi, wave, smile, or give a high five. It is your choice, but you have to acknowledge that tita is saying hi to you.”
I want children (my own and my students) to understand that their feelings are very important and are valued and respected by me. Respect goes both ways.