Monday, February 26, 2018

Commonly Used Pre-School Phrases: "You're not my friend!"

In the 8 years I've been teaching, I have heard a handful of phrases that children will use with each other on a constant basis. Some sound like they may be a bit too harsh when heard, making us feel that we need to intervene or maybe question what deep seeded meaning is behind the phrase. As I continued my education and my experience with working with preschool age, I've come to learn and even welcome these phrases into the classroom. What better way to prepare ourselves for the world outside Tumbleweed than with being able to have conflict-resolutions scenarios inside the classroom now? For part one of my blog series, I will start with the one we all know so well:

"You're not my friend." 

It's one of the most common phrases children will say, starting as early as 2 and continuing on through Elementary school. When I first heard this phrase, it was easy to say, "We're all friends in school" . What I learned through experience was that it wasn't necessarily the friendship I was seeking from the children, but rather the respect for each other that needed to start being practiced.

"What's my job?" As L and C are busy at work, A finds that he wants to join, but also notices a game is already in progress. A common phrase we use at Tumbleweed is "what's my job", which opens the door for more opportune moments of creativity and the ability to let everyone have the chance to play.
At school, we get to be kind and caring to everyone there because it's how we would like to be treated, as well. When we as adults hear this phrase, we automatically feel for the child being ostracized, because we know that friendships are some of the key components to a healthy and sustainable experience at school. For a child in preschool though, this scenario will play out in a completely different matter.  One child may say "you're not my friend" because another child is playing with a toy that the other wants one minute and the next move on to another game or toy completely forgetting the toy they desired a moment before. The phrase shouldn't been seen as harsh, but instead viewed as an opportunity to help the child find the words and emotions they are searching for in that particular moment. 

When I find myself hearing this phrase, I make my presence known to them, but don't interfere right away. At Tumbleweed, we are firm believers in letting the children have as many opportunities to be independent thinkers and actors of their own choices. More times than not, a child is stating this phrase as a way to express a need of theirs. Touch, proximity, and open relationships all combined together are keystones to preschool relationships.
"I'm using these blocks. All of them." LT explains to LD. "But how about we build together so I can build a tower with you?" LD exclaims, making LT feel more relaxed when hearing that LD wasn't wanting to take her blocks, but instead build together as to not disrupt her already built structure. In moments like these, we are able to witness the key components utilized but little guidance or instruction from teachers.
With these keystones in mind I ask myself these questions:

What lead up to this situation?
Are all parties feeling heard?
How can we help them say what is true? 

John Meyer's book Kids Talking: Learning Relationships and Culture with Children, stated that "children relate friendship to practical acts like playing together, sharing a toy, or giving something to another. The ability to reciprocate and meet the other's expectations was crucial for building relationships." Once a situation is assessed and the children are feeling heard, we are able to move onto the stage of finding words that make us feel good and that we would want someone to say to us if the roles were reversed. It's in those crucial moments that we are able as educators to give them the tools and words to assist them in expressing their feelings and emotions in a productive way that benefits all parties. After that, we send them off to grow and learn from their actions and flourish into the wonderful human beings we know they are starting to become.