Positive Approach in Supervision
Many times in a day your child will need your help with dressing, eating, playing, carrying out a task, obeying a limit. You will need to be continually redirecting an activity, resolving a conflict with another child, and the like. Many times in a day, an adult decision followed by appropriate action is necessary.
The positive approach
A little boy four years of age was in an ugly mood. He was looking for trouble. When his playmate came along, he knocked him down and was pounding him. His mother pulled him off. He was kicking, screaming, and yelling as she marched him into the house. He hissed: “Let me alone. I’m going to cut you up in pieces and throw you in the garbage can!” Mother replied: “I know you feel that way, but until you cool off you cannot be out there with the rest of the children. I’ll just wait here with you until you do.”
She did not react negatively to his negative behavior. She was firm with him, and isolated him until he cooled off. This is what is meant by a positive approach. We can, by God’s grace, maintain a spirit of tenderness, kindness, and gentleness regardless of the child’s behavior. Parents need not look at every incident that happens during the day as a crisis, but as part of a continuing learning process. Parents must remember that they are teachers. Accordingly, any incident should be viewed in the perspective of years of learning.
The following incident occurred in a nursery school, where the teachers were making good progress with a boy who had been accustomed to biting other children who resisted him. He had not bitten anyone for a long time. This day he came in sleepy and crabby. He wanted a tricycle that a playmate was using. The playmate refused to give it up, so the ill-natured boy bit him. As the teachers approached the children, both boys were in tears. One could see that the offender knew he had done wrong. One teacher hurried to his playmate to reassure him. The other teacher hurried to the crabby boy and took him into a corner. She said, “You forgot, didn’t you?” “Yeah, I forgot,” he answered. In this case, her approach was much more effective than if she had glared at him and said, “You little brat! I ought to whip the daylights out of you for doing that!” It was clear that he was sorry. The teacher went on to remind him that there were people who could help him get what he wanted. Soon he got up, went to one of the women and said, “Will you help me get a tricycle, please?”
Do you see the underlying principle here? It is not suggested that you let your children run wild. That must be emphasized. You can deal with your child’s most obnoxious behavior in a gentle but firm way. There is a difference between gentle firmness and hostile firmness. A basic tenderness for the child, no matter what the behavior at the moment, is an important invisible help in training children. The boy who was pounding his playmate was handled very differently from the boy who bit his playmate. In either case, the key to the situation was the manner of the adults involved. Kindly and firmly insisting that children behave is far more effective than indulging them, letting them run wild, or allowing them their every whim. A positive approach toward the boy who bit his playmate helped him learn to overcome frustration.
The key to a positive approach is an overall kind feeling for children, not a reaction to what they do at the moment. It takes many years for a child to become an adult. Parents need to be consistent. As parents “train up a child in the way he should go,” they can rejoice in the promise of the Word of God that “when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Dealing with the unpredictable
Over and over again, parents are faced with unexpected incidents involving the child, incidents which give endless variety and humor to the task of parenthood. It is at such moments that the basic spirit of the parent is on trial. A positive approach is needed at these unexpected moments if it is ever needed. There are, of course, those times when you can carefully weigh all sides of a matter, when you will discuss it and plan carefully what you will say and do. However, the snap decision and the way you react to it really set the tone in your home.
The following illustration clarifies what is meant by the unexpected incident:
One morning a mother of three children walked into the kitchen. She was humming happily to herself as she entered. The three boys were grouped around the kitchen sink chattering good-naturedly. She thought to herself that they were getting along agreeably together. Then to her consternation she saw what they were doing. On the drainboard by the sink was a pile of a dozen eggshells and in a bowl were the dozen eggs. The mother was enraged and proceeded to give the boys a angry lecture, telling them that for the rest of the day each must stay in the house and be isolated.
This is what the boys were doing: one had gotten the idea that he would poke a hole in the end of a raw egg, empty the shell, and as a joke throw it at his mother. Emptying the contents of the egg proved to be a very interesting experience, so they did it to another egg. They enjoyed it so much that they went through the whole dozen.
After her angry tirade, the mother began to think more rationally. Here she was, enraged, spoiling her day for herself and for her children over a dollar’s worth of eggs. She was ashamed, repented before God, called her children, and confessed that she had acted in a very inappropriate way. Then she made it plain that their deed was not to be repeated. Permission to do such things was needed from her. Everyone was relieved. That noon they all enjoyed scrambled eggs–and later on scrambled egg snacks.