Unpacking your image of the child

Yesterday I was visiting with a colleague who I have known for many years and we were discussing programs and the different types of programs that are available. We went back and forth discussing the many different types of programs and why some work for some children and some for others. There is no magical program that is right for every child as every child is their own unique person.

I suggested we do an activity and write down our image of the child, the words we think of when we are given the prompt “children are…”. We each did this and although we used different words there was a great number of similarities in our ideas of who children are. This is mine:

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We unpacked some of the words to explain what we meant to ensure there was a good understanding behind the words. Like “contradictions” by which I meant that children do not always follow the same patterns, they may be in love with something one minute but not interested the next, or they might be a really good leader in some situations and shy and reserved in others. Same with “inconsistent”, by which I meant that children are still learning about their emotions and how to respond to the sometimes overwhelming emotions that flood their bodies meaning one minute they can be happy and the next appear angry or frustrated. This lead on to “challenging” by which I meant that they can challenge the adults around them to think on their feet to find appropriate ways to respond to each child’s needs in supportive and nurturing ways.

Then from there we used the prompt “children need” to expand on this as to what we think a program should look like based on this image of the child we had created. Below is my response to that:

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From these two documents it creates a reflective opportunity to then go back and see whether the program in question supports the image of the child, or whether it has been pulled and shifted by one or many different influences. Between families, schools, personal biases, other services, social media (facebook, pinterest etc.) and marketing, just to name a few, we can find out program being more about the adults, and less about the children. For example we may do structured stencils to appease families, or have 30 of the same artwork on the wall because it looks cute, or implement dance classes because the service down the road does this, or have all children do a 30 minute group time so we can clean and reset the room. The question is though, are these best for the child? Do they support your image of the child?

Perhaps this is something you could do in your service, to reflect on whether what you do supports what you think about children, or whether these two ideas have drifted apart over time.

 

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