Five Guides for Being with Kids

“Goodbye, Mr. Rick,”
said five-year-old Iliana on her way out of school
“Goodbye, Iliana.”
“You’re the principal.”
“That’s right. I am the principal.”
“You are in charge of everything.”
“That’s right.”
”You can DO anything you want.”
Ah. I get it. This is not the usual pleasantries
communicating mutual affection,
but a serious educational conversation.
“Well, no, Iliana, I can’t do anything I want.
“I have to obey the same rules you do.
“I have to respect everyone.
“I have to be kind all the time.”
“Yeah, Mr. Rick, you have to follow the rules on the play structure.”
“Right,” I said and paused.
“Actually, you can do some things I can’t do.
“I can’t climb on the play structure.
“I am too big.”

The absence of children
compromises my education.

If you are lucky enough
to be responsible for children,
but are not feeling so lucky right now
(like they test your authority,
ask too many questions,
get into conflict,
keep making mistakes,
underachieve),
maybe you’re not seeing them
properly. Maybe they
are doing their job
(learning to make themselves something),
maybe you need to let them
help you be you
(make something of your unique self).
Here are some things to remember:

  1. Challenging authority?
    Testing the environment is their job.

    Yours is to be there, love them,
    and push back when necessary.
    They are trying to become their own authority.
  2. Asking too many questions?
    Questioning is their job;
    yours is answering.
    (and often you can put a question back to them.)
  3. Getting into conflict?
    Learning how to get along with others is their job.
    You might help by asking a question.
    They might even ask you a question.
  4. Making mistakes?
    Learning by creating is what kids do.
    You can help by delivering hearable, seeable, doable feedback.
  5. Underachieving?
    They are developing their own standards
    The requirements of the environment
    are, usually, obvious enough
    without your help.

Life always provides us
all with the challenge:
the challenge of learning
the art of allowing
ourselves to be changed.

 

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4 Responses to Five Guides for Being with Kids

  1. Susan Cohn says:

    Thank you for reminding us of our responsibilities in relating to children. After over 59 years as a Montessori teacher/administrator, I still enjoy every moment with children…more than with adults at times!
    In order to teach, you have to learn, and in order to learn you have to observe. Observing children gives us the opportunity to learn about them and ourselves. If you don’t have time for children you seriously miss a great opportunity to learn about yourself.

  2. Peter Barry says:

    Oh, thank you, Rick.
    This is such a calm graceful post; a gentle reminder that a child’s purpose in life is to become independent as broadly as possible and happily inter-dependent amongst those she loves. At age five years, this is so blissful!
    Tomorrow is Fathers Day, at least here in Canada; have a good one!
    Peter

  3. Larry Arnstein says:

    Pointing out to Iliana that you were too big to climb on the play structure, so there was something she could do that you couldn’t do was very creative, and hopefully thought-provoking for her.

  4. Larry Arnstein says:

    Pointing out to Iliana that you were too big to climb on the play structure, so there was something she could do that you couldn’t do was very creative, and hopefully thought-provoking for her.

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