Being constructive, not constrictive
As anybody who works with children knows, all children learn differently and need different kinds of support at different times to help them on their learning journey. The key is to identify when support is required and when to stand back and let them figure it out on their own. I know many parents of younger children find it hard not to intervene and push their child towards a particular outcome even if it’s not one the child is very interested in. In my experience with pre-school children, this is a losing battle. It is much more fruitful to let the child lead the way. They often come up with completely original ideas in this way and often the ‘mistakes’ turn into the best learning experiences. Little ones often need practical assistance, such as help with scissors or sticking. When it comes to decisions such as what goes where they should be left to make up their own minds as much as possible.
With older children the process becomes more finely nuanced as they will require help in order to develop their skills but the help often needs to be given in a subtle way which doesn’t dent their confidence. I try to be conscious of the language I use when talking to children in these situations. I use phrases such as ‘why don’t you try…’ and ‘what would happen if…’ rather than direct or negative instructions which can make them feel they are not in control of their own work. I also use A LOT of praise. By saying ‘I really love the way you have done x’ you can almost guarantee that they will do x again, thus consolidating that skill. If this is a group situation, and the praise is given loudly enough, at least half of the group will also probably have a go at it too and in this way skills are shared and confidence is boosted.
All that being said, there are times when I have had to resort to saying (or pleading) ‘don’t’. The blame for this sits squarely at the door of whoever came up with emojis. Such is the emoji obsession amongst some of my six and seven year olds that I have had to go against my own advice and finally had to issue a direct order…’NO EMOJIS’. This hasn’t made me popular but I am yet to see a picture that has been improved by the addition of a smiley face. They don’t agree of course but, luckily, I’m the boss!