Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Simplifying Relationships With Children

     I love working with children, don't you? There are times, though, when children are resistant to doing what they are supposed to do, but why? This is something that I am learning to deal with as a teacher, so I am always trying to relate to and teach children in a better way. Here is a key principle that I have learned and read about:

Giving children practice with the fact that life sometimes makes demands doesn't make adults mean. Much of growing up is learning to tolerate the demands that life itself makes on us. . When adults are  uncomfortable with taking control, they can confuse children by softening and blurring - and, thereby weakening - their demands. For example, while some children are ready to go when a parent or teacher says "Would it be o.k. if we do some [violin] bow exercises now?" other children hear it as a what it really is - a choice. They say "No," either verbally or by the way they react, and with good reason. The younger they are, the more children thrive on instructions and choices that are clear, concrete, and genuine - and demands that are straightforward. In other words, in this case, saying "Bow exercises are next." Young children need this clarity because they are not yet able to handle subtleties of language. But it's even good advice for adolescents. No matter what age the developing child, adults serve that child best when they are clear and up-front.[1]
     Notice that the key principle is clarifying reasonable demands from choices when trying to accomplish a task with a child (or even adult). Do this keeping in mind that people "of any age are human beings who deserve to be treated fairly with the care, concern, and courtesy you would normally use in any relationship."[2] Our desires to teat people fairly with care, concern and courtesy flows out of a convicting that people are very precious. Do you really believe that? Why do you believe this? These questions will determine how you will treat people, how you will relate to them, and how you will teach them. 

     Let me be honest, I am still learning how to do this consistently, it is an ongoing process. Giving clear demands is not some new discovery, this principle has been known for thousands of years. This has helped me that at times I make things more difficult for the children that I teach. So, do not give up working with your children, simplify things by being clear with what they need to do. They may not like it, but they need it to grow up to mature human beings.  

[1]Edmund Sprunger, Helping Parents Practice (St. Louis: Yes Publishing, 2005), p. 94.
[2]Barbara A. Brinson, Choral Music: Methods and Materials .

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