Monday, February 15, 2010

Preschool Manners in Early Childhood Education

Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.”
~Margaret Lee Runbeck

As a young child I was made to apologize to my sisters. I remember my parents standing over me watching me do it, too.….listening to my tone of voice.
As young as I was, my mother’s ear was tuned to the ‘twang’ in of the tone I had as I apologized.
“Don’t you think you should try that apology once more?” She would offer.
I took a breath and looked at my sister’s Cheshire Cat grin….(I knew what my mom meant)…ahem.
My own parents viewed an apology as a part of manners, just like saying please or thank you. Being pretty practical no nonsense people I'm not sure they would have care about looking at any developmental standpoints, either.
Preschoolers learn by example. I have apologized to children and have apologized on behalf of preschooler’s behavior. Telling young children I feel sorry to hear about a particular sad situation, or simply sorry that they feel sad or upset is my way of acknowledging I know they troubled.
“I’m Sorry” can be a difficult words to say sometimes. But when it is infused in our children’s environment, perhaps it makes it a bit easier to say when it is a familiar phrase.
There really is something about preschoolers-how they don’t hold grudges. Three minutes later they are off playing and laughing with one another…
It’s really us big folks that do things like that.
I have worked in schools that often have strong policies about whether or not children should even apologize to one another. I found this quite surprising. What are your thoughts on this?


Jenni said...

It's very simple...You SHOW you're sorry, you don't have to say it. If you purposely knock another child's tower help build it back up.

If you accidentaly knock another child's tower offer to help build it back up.

You hit someone, you take care of the injury.

In my 20+ years I have too many times seen children think that the words get them out of trouble. Nope, not at all.

"I'm sorry" are more than just words. "I'm sorry" is an act of remorse and an act of fixing what you broke.

Children in our program are never forced to say they are sorry...they are instructed and supported in SHOWING they are sorry.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenni, I appricate your passion on this subject. I have always felt a sense of humility when I apologized to someone.I have even noticed different levels within that when I say, "I'm sorry" vs. "Please forgive me". (You can tell I have had lots of practice, huh?) I am not understanding the mentality putting policies on apologies for children because they may or may not mean it. To me, it's about manners and respect for another persons feelings in hopes that one day it will come from the heart.
I have yet to see a school demand policies on saying please, thank you, and excuse me...we teach that by example with the same zeal in hopes it comes from the heart as well.
Your examples of showing sorry are right on point...but I have to disagree that some people do need do need to 'hear' it...and I believe I would be doing my children a diservice if I inforced a belief that could possible hurt another person. I would never force a child force an apology, either....
However, when an apology isn't given to a child, I apologize on that child's behalf...I am sorry it happen and it hurt my feelings as well, etc.

Jenni said...

Let me clarify a bit, you're right, sometimes a child wants to hear it. The "victim" (for lack of a better word) is always given an opportunity through conflict resolution to say, "what would make me feel better is an I'm sorry." The children who need to hear it then get to hear it.

The way you say I'm sorry is coming from you, and I think it's important to recognize every child's feelings in these situations. I wouldn't call it apologizing on the other child's behalf, though. It's an odd semantics for me, but I would call it recognizing the child's feelings.

We do model proper manners with the please and thank you and I know there have been many times that I have appologized to the children for something I have done. That's the modeling. I also do my best to right my wrong as well.

Barbra The Bloggess said...

Thanks Jenni, your right. Modeling is a much better word. I've often wondered about these schools that don't allow teachers to touch the subject of apologies...not even for modeling or otherwise. What do you think that's about this (This is still ECE, mind you)? When I have asked the response is, "It must come from the heart." Come now...can anyone say what is in a child's heart? And how can they learn if they do not see, hear, feel and are taught for it to get in their heart?
Should we stop teaching all manners until we know for sure it comes from the heart? OR...perhaps that's it. Apologies aren't viewed as part of manners in some learning arenas.
Have you ever experienced this?

Jenni said...

I think the people who don't touch on it in the classroom don't quite get it. They take an idea and run in the completely wrong direction with it without fulling understanding it. Yes, the apology should come from the heart, but the action of righting a wrong doesn't have to come from the heart. (Heck, on an extreme level, that's what prisons are about-inmates have commited a wrong and are paying society back for that wrong...MANY of them don't feel remorse).

Children need to build a conscience before actually feeling remorse and that doesn't happen until later in the early years, right? But that doesn't mean we can't teach them the PRACTICE of righting wrongs. This way when they actually FEEL remorse, they're going to know what they should do.

Apologies aren't viewed as manner to some people. I'm on the fence about whether or not it is manners or not. On one side, it IS good manners to say you're sorry; on the other side, it is recognizing the other person's emotions and feelings which puts it under the column of emotional development.

Either way, the teacher who tells me a child needs to come from the heart I know needs to go back and really understand the purpose behind that statement.

Barbra The Bloggess said...

I am understanding this more now. You have brought up some excellent points. So we can look at it from different points of entry. *Developmental ideals
*Manners or etiquette (this 'can' be somewhat surface), but I am going into children learning to respect one another by seeing it 'modeled' by teachers.
I believe if everyone saw apologies as part of manners no one would be disagreeing.
I doesn't seem to take anything out of anyone to say please or thank you...not even much effort to model it.
Developmentally speaking, we understand where many children are-but what if the issues have to do with pride, anger or worse...oh horse feathers,'really' we are talking about teacher modeling, I'm sure we could analyze the pudin' out of this topic.
The problem ironically lies with the big peoples policies.
It's so true, kids need to know the purpose behind their statements...which is why I wouldn't force a statement but continue modeling in hopes they would be convicted within themselves.
I really enjoy you, Jenni.