Tag Archives: nurture

The 5 A’s of the Heart

I recently overheard an interaction between a child care provider and the children in her toddler classroom that made me a little bit uneasy. The sounds of children crying were eclipsed by their teacher saying, “Those of you who are crying, go away. My friends who aren’t crying want to have circle time.”

In Lynn Staley’s Nurturing Positive Behaviors In Your Classroom, she states that “children need mentors more then they need critics.” This has always rung true for me. Too often I observe child care providers speaking at children but not with them, using language that does not guide positive behavior but condescends and devalues. While I feel it’s important to point out that lengthy circle time is not appropriate for 2-year-olds, what’s most important for me to note about this interaction was the lack of empathy in the child care provider’s statement and her tone.

According to the “5 A’s of the heart,” also discussed in Staley’s book, children need affirmation, attention, acceptance, affection and appreciation. All children deserve affirmation, to hear positive reinforcement and praise. Regardless of behaviors, each child has strengths that we should emphasize.

Children also need attention. Every child wants to know that their caregivers are happy to see them each morning. Sometimes children “act out” because they are desperately seeking attention, and even negative attention is attention! When you have many children in your care, it’s important to recognize and value each child.

My personal favorite is acceptance. All children need to feel accepted and not just by their friends, but by you, too! Children will react by mimicking your behavior, so remember that if you are constantly saying a child’s name or calling a child out for challenging behaviors, the other children may not include that child in play and may even tell that child that she is “bad.” I like to think of Staley here, too: “When we speak every child’s name with kindness and respect, it is the truest demonstration of our sincerity.”

Research has shown that warm, responsive touch positively influences a child’s development, so show them some affection! With the child’s permission offer high fives, hugs, lap sitting and other appropriate touching as much as possible. Remember that not every child welcomes touching, so when we ask we’re showing that child appreciation, too. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that children want to feel valued and appreciated. All people do.

Let’s be honest, anyone who has ever worked in a child care setting has experienced circle time like the one I described in the beginning. I know I have. However, the best professionals (in any field) want to learn from their mistakes and do better. If you’ve ever wanted to tell a crying toddler to “go away,” consider this: the “5 A’s of the heart” will help you to have a classroom that supports a child’s growing identity, shows each child how much you value them and are there to comfort them and will hopefully keep you from reaching a place where you feel you need to tell any child to “go away.”

Where Do Words Come From?

Learning is a mysterious thing. How did you come to know that when you look up it is the sky that you see? Or that filling a cup too full of liquid will cause it to overflow? When children learn language, it works the same way.

I found an article in the New York Times about children’s language development recently, and it made me wonder. I asked our infant and toddler specialist about how children develop language, and she said “bathe the children in language, don’t drown them.” I like that. I immediately pictured an adult talking with a child rather than telling the child what to do. She told me about a study that compared the development of children whose parents only talked directly to them (“put your shoes away”, “eat supper”, “sit down”) to those who had conversations with them.  The children who had conversations were significantly more developed in language and communication than the children who were given directives only. 

The article supports what Christine said and the author gives simple advice to parents and caregivers to help boost children’s language development:  “Talk to your child about what they’re focused on. Read to your child often. If they’re in a bilingual home, speak to the child and read to the child in the language that you’re most comfortable with. Speak clearly and naturally and use real words. Show excitement when the child speaks.”

Hmmmmm, I think we can do that.