Dear Mangrove Families,
Our journeys can be so cyclical, coming back to lessons that the we haven’t completely learned all the way or that become reexamined when someone comes into our life to give us new perspective. While having a great conversation with my fellow toddler team members, we started questioning this balance between the goal of ‘independence’ and the goal of ’empathy.’ We work so hard to create opportunities for our friends to be independent, to take care of themselves and the classroom. but if you swing too far in that direction, are you forgetting how to foster compassion and empathy for others and our interconnectedness. How delicate that line because both skills are essential in the creation of a strong, resilient, loving, and understanding human being. I’m reminded of one of my favorite newsletters that I wrote a few years back that helped to examine that balance, so I want to share it with you now…
The Ms. Liz Archives 2016
Recently, my five-year-old asked me, “Could you get me a cup of milk?” My first response was to answer him back, “You can do it. That is your work.” I mean- I have prepared the environment for him to be independent and successful without me. He has access to glass cups perfect for his small hands, there are pitchers in the refrigerator filled with various beverage options, and he knows how to pour. And if he spills, he has cloths and wipes readily available and accessible and a basket to put the dirty laundry away. I worked hard so that I wouldn’t have to help. So why, at that moment, did I actually say, “Yes I can my love?”
I thought to myself, I ask him all the time,
“Can you throw this away for me?”
“Could you put your sister’s clothes away for me?”
“Can you get the mail for us?”
I find myself asking for help from my child all the time. And sometimes he easily complies and other times he says no, which he totally has the right to do because I asked. And sometimes I get frustrated when he says no. I want him to be helpful and compassionate. I want him to have empathy and be caring. We all want our children to support each other and the community as a whole. That is what Grace and Courtesy is all about. So even when your child is fully capable of completing a task on their own, I invite you to help them.
In the classroom, when a child has finished a lesson but left it out at a table or on the carpet, we don’t always chase after them. Of course we want our toddlers to complete a full cycle of work which includes putting the work back where it belongs. But we also want to model Grace and Courtesy, so we will pick it up and we might say quietly, “A friend forgot to put this lesson away. I will help put it away.” Or if we see water on the floor we might say, “I see water on the floor. I will get a cloth and soak it up to help keep my friends safe.” We might also ask a friend, “Would you like to help me put this away so another friend can use it?” We are using these opportunities to model how to help others without expecting anything in return.
The more we model Grace and Courtesy, the more opportunities our children have to learn these bigger lessons about compassion, empathy, and selflessness. At this time of the year, we begin to see our toddlers helping their friends more and more without being asked. They see water on the floor and clean it up. They assist friends in putting on shoes or packing up another friend’s nap items. Lately we have even witnessed friends rubbing each other’s backs during circle as a gesture of kindness and support to help them settle.
So of course, encourage independence. They need it and want it. But also help and support just because. As adults, sometimes we just need someone to help us with something and wouldn’t it be great if that someone ended up being our own child- just because.
Ms Liz and Ms. Sonia