So what do I know, what do I do, and why?
Caring for and educating children has always felt like a privilege. Of course, it has its moments, but even when faced with a challenge I appreciate the opportunity to learn - both about the individual that I am interacting with, and about how children grow and develop generally. Before I had even hit my teenage years I was looking after infants and young children, and this fuelled the fascination with the human mind which led me to my first degree in psychology. In the many years between then and now I have worked with numerous families in my roles as a private nanny, family support worker and early years teacher, giving me a great foundation for supporting the development of young children, and leading me to undertake my master’s degree in Early Childhood.
I learned a great deal from doing my MA; about different approaches, philosophies and theories of early care and education. I developed my skills as a researcher, undertaking a detailed research project into the social behaviour and language development of twins. Yet the most influential and life changing learning experiences of my professional life began when I embarked on a post-graduate diploma in psychoanalytic infant observational studies, and when I discovered RIE’s (Resources for Infant Educarers) Educaring Approach, which has its roots in psychoanalytic theory (more about what I learned during my RIE Foundations training to come in a later post!). From both of these I gained an understanding of what it feels like to be a young child that challenged almost everything I thought I knew.
From my most recent training with psychotherapists and experts in the field of child development, I have learned the value of stepping back and observing children in order to think more deeply about what they are doing and what they are trying to tell us, and then engaging fully - really connecting with the child and their feelings – in order to offer timely and relevant support. I have learned that, by doing so, we can better understand what the child needs in order to develop and grow their bodies and minds. We ensure they feel safe, secure and loved. We inform them about what is acceptable behaviour within our society and what is not. We help them to make sense of their internal world, their difficult feelings, and find healthy ways to manage them. We enable them to feel autonomous and confident, to be determined and resilient, and to love and accept themselves.
It all sounds great, especially when put down on paper. But even better is seeing this happening right in front of us, every day. It’s when 3 year old P is able to express their sadness at having to say goodbye to mummy or daddy so that they can then let go of that feeling, move on and focus on play and exploration. When 2 year old J begins to self-inhibit the impulse to hit when frustrated because the clear message that this could cause hurt to someone else has been paired with an acknowledgement of their feelings of frustration, helping to regulate and diffuse these feelings. When 4 year old T suggests a compromise and shares his blocks, not because he has been told to, but because he has learned to consider another person’s feelings through previous experience of having his own feelings about wanting something that he doesn’t have heard and acknowledged.
Not only does this kind of learning make life easier and more enjoyable – for both the children themselves and the adults who care for them – but it engenders high self-esteem, prosocial behaviour, empathy, cooperation…and much much more. It supports healthy brain development, and healthy emotional development, and in doing so has long term implications for the mental health and wellbeing of our children.
Check out these blog posts from other like minded people for more information:
Why I teach the way I do, Teacher Tom's Blog
That future child does not exist, Teacher Tom's Blog
How to enjoy a beautiful relationship with your toddler right now, Janet Lansbury's Blog
The wonderful world of RIE, Let the Children Play
What working with kids looks like, Joe Bower's Blog