We are discussing how caregivers of children can best deal with the temperament issues that children naturally move through. I have stated at least six principles based on current research regarding setting an environment for children in which caregivers can best address varied temperament issues children display.
Understanding the observer role
The first principle is to spend time observing the child and relate his behavior to what you know about his/her developmental level.
If we are honest, a young child’s behavior is sometimes quite confusing. In fact, it can be be frustrating and infuriating at times. When you as a caregiver feel frustration, anxiety, confusion or anger rising, it is important to take a step back and try to figure out the meaning of the child’s behavior based on his/her developmental stage. Unfortunately, I often hear caregivers explaining certain child behaviors in judgmental, sarcastic or labeling ways without really grasping what is truly happening internally with the child.
Taking the observer role means that you as a caregiver will:
- Step back and observe the behavior
- Resist participating until you are ready
- Watch, analyze and categorize the situation
- Decide when you are adequately prepared to make a clearer, healthier decision about your actions
Applying the observer role
Here is an example of applying the observer role. You may have a two-year-old in the childcare center who suddenly stops napping and begins to cry consistently. It would be easy to think that the child is being manipulative because she does not want to nap. However, developmentally, she may be going through a stage in which she experiences increased anxiety about being separated from her parents. Additionally, she may be at that place in which she does not need a nap.
A good strategy after observing and relating that observation about a possible developmental / temperament change, it might be best to simply tell the child that she only needs to lie down and rest and does not have to sleep. A favorite cuddly toy might help her to settle.
As an observer, you gather information. The more informed you are in what the child is doing and in which developmental / temperament stage the child may be in, the more likely your decisions will be healthy for the child. Applying the observer role will also increase your confidence as a caregiver when the child responds with clarity that she is learning to cope with her dilemma at that time in her life.
Most of the time our children do not know why they are doing what they are doing. While this aspect of development is frustrating, hopefully caregivers will have the knowledge and capability to guide the children in appropriately dealing with these challenges. Effective use of the observer role sets the stage for a safe and healthy environment for child development.
Stay tuned as we continue to explore these principles.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Source: Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition by Sarah Landy, pp 41-42.