Treating Children Compassionately
I realize I get into my head, where all I think of is what is rattling on my mind, tuning out what is happening with others around me. Most of what I am thinking of is stuff, blah, blah stuff. Tired. Sore shoulder. Coffee. I wish I could have had time for that yesterday. I also realize when I am fully present, eyes open, living in kindness and compassion.
I know the difference between two states of mind: the two wolves.
One wolf is a mind full of me and my issues. I am anxious. I feel behind. There is lots of stuff to do. I wish they wouldn’t do that. Not again! The tuned inward wolf, hidden.
The other wolf lives in a heightened awareness of others. For me, I can tell I’m there when I can see the children. It’s quite different. I can see their eyes. I can see everyone’s eyes. I am listening to what they are doing and what they are saying and all the little non-verbal indicators. I have no thought of me here at all. If I check in with myself for a moment, I am maybe aware of a kind of energy I feel. I am gently joyful. I am living the flow. The tuned outward wolf, present in this moment.
It’s the human condition at work. We can stray at times, but we are also naturally wise enough to see it. We know we are better when we are present with kindness and being genuine and appreciative. Yes, the other wolf is right here, too. Hello. I see you. One of the wolves will dominate this moment.
The wolf you feed is the one that survives.
All the great educators I know have done a lot of personal work to face the challenge of dropping our story line, letting go of the unpleasant feelings we are carrying, and select slightly better habits of reacting. It takes courage to work on yourself. It seems never ending to stay with loving kindness, to screw up, and to go forward more compassionately for having just made another mistake. The challenge to act compassionately is with us every moment of everyday with children.
The Foundation Fifteen
To address the problem of acting compassionately, I asked teachers and care providers in my early childhood curriculum class this question: “If you were a child in your own program, how would you like to be treated?” I invited them to write about that for a few minutes (most easily filled a full page) and then share what they wrote with two or three others. I invited them to listen intently and silently to the person sharing. After a time I combined their thoughts on the board.
I have kept a collection of these constructions and offer a comprehensive summary here. I kept the general order of the topics as people expressed them.
If you were a child in your own program, how would you like to be treated?
- I don’t want to be bossed around.
- I want freedom of choice.
- I want to be looked up to.
- I want to be recognized as an individual.
- I want opportunities to be creative.
- I would like people to be happy to see me.
- I want to feel safe.
- I want to be treated with kindness.
- I want people to be patient with me.
- I want people to not be in a hurry.
- I want to be listened to.
- I want to know that my contributions are valued.
- I want to feel part of the community.
- I want the opportunity to learn from my mistakes by fixing them.
- I want to be included in decisions that are made.
A Foundation Fifteen Compassion Challenge
I know this list has made a difference to me. I have seen how teams of teachers can use it to remind themselves of the children’s perspective. Posted by the mirror in the adult restroom, it is a reminder to be compassionate and aware.
Proclaiming the Foundation Fifteen can be a political act. We can remind everyone to be compassionate and aware of what its like not only for children at school and in care but also in the family, in the grocery store, and possibly ever wider in our culture.
Would you proclaim the Foundation Fifteen in your domain and write me about what you did and what happened, so I can post it here?
Experiences from the Field