Gentle Correction and Guidance
An extremely important attribute that children develop during the preschool years is what psychologists refer to as “initiative.” As their imagination and creativity emerge, children learn that they can come up with good ideas in their own heads. Whenever children are encouraged to use their initiative and are praised for doing so, this process is enhanced. On the other hand, if they are constantly being told “that’s wrong,” “that’s bad,” “that’s no good,” they become psychologically paralyzed. They figure they should simply follow the instructions and do what they’re told, because if they think of something themselves, they are sure it is going to be unacceptable.
Now this can cause a bit of a conundrum for mothers and fathers. It is obviously inappropriate to lead a child to believe that whatever comes out of her head is wonderful. Correction and guidance are extremely important. However, parents want to ensure that the preponderance of their child’s experiences are positive. And whenever they do need to provide correction and guidance, they should strive to do so in as gentle a manner as possible.
For example, a child who has recently been to the zoo has drawn a picture of a giraffe. And her giraffe is purple and only has three legs. Her parent asks, “What is that?” The child replies, “A giraffe!” The parent says, “No. Giraffes aren’t purple, they’re yellow. And it only has three legs. That’s wrong. Get out of the way and let me show you how to do it.”
Meanwhile, another parent could respond by saying, “A giraffe? Really? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a purple giraffe. Tell me about him. And I see he only has three legs. How does he run along with the herd if he only has three legs?”
So don’t be afraid to provide your preschooler with correction and guidance when warranted. But when doing so, try to do it in a friendly fashion that will protect and preserve her sense of initiative.
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.