This recognition (which came with a certificate and everything!) was for mastering the skill of assertiveness. A mother couldn't be more proud - first, that my kid is assertive at school and second, that she goes to a school that teaches such an important method of communication. "Be nice, be nice!" That's pretty much the extent of my own early childhood social training.
Telling preschool kids to be nice doesn't cut it. According to Dr. Becky Bailey, founder of Conscious Discipline, the third and fourth years of our lives are the most aggressive. When conflicts arise, children use the problem-solving tools at their disposal: often hitting, kicking, biting and screaming. Expulsion rates for preschoolers is 1,300% higher than any other grade level. I've known parents who have declined to send their children to preschool, for fear of exposing them to violence.
Today I introduced the concept of assertiveness to a group of two through three year olds with whom I volunteer. The first opportunity was during a conflict between a girl who was playing with blocks and a boy who decided to stand on them. I watched as she struggled to handle the problem: she first tried whining "don't," she then tried to get an adult's attention, and when no adult intervened, she put up her hands, apparently considering pushing him off. At that point I made eye contact with her and said, "Use your Big Voice to tell him not to stand on your blocks." Instant success. Both parties left the exchange feeling good about themselves, and I as their trusted guide and teacher, didn't have to damage my relationship with the boy by giving him negative attention.
In the second case, I practiced using my assertive voice. A child jumped on my back and hung on to my neck. With a low, firm tone I said, "That doesn't feel good to me and I want you to get off." She did so immediately and there were no hurt feelings, no hurt necks! It may seem obvious, but really pay attention the next time you interact with a toddler or preschooler: we avoid and avoid, it builds up and we eventually end up yelling. Seizing these teaching moments is so important because this knowledge builds upon itself. And the lessons are so much more valuable than a child thinking, "I go to time out a lot. I get yelled at a lot. I'm a bad girl."
Watching this video, I came to the awful realization that our children's first experience with school is often also their first experience with violence. It's such vital work to ensure that the two are disassociated as soon as possible - before a child bullies another, before a child fears attending school. I'm grateful that, here at Langley, we have a tried-and-true method for accomplishing this through the Conscious Discipline program.
By Dawn Madura