Right before the winter break all of the teachers who work with one year olds in our school, along with our wonderful supervisor, got to meet with Polly (a RIE associate and a really great person!). If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, DON’T pass it up.
Polly said many great things in our meeting but one thing she said really stuck with me. She said that toddlers are great negotiators. So true! Somehow they can make almost anything sound like a good idea. At lunch in our classroom it is common to see at least one teacher feeding a child. We know that all of the children in our class are more than capable of feeding themselves but somehow we end up helping them. A child will say “can you help me” or “I need help” and then we might respond “you know how to do it.” The child will either ask again or won’t pick up their fork and through their quiet, or not so quiet, negotiation skills we end up feeding them. This is something that I accept happens in our classroom. Could you image having great negotiation skills but never “getting your way”?
Polly also said something along the line of, it’s important that we do negotiate with toddlers and go with their ideas when it’s appropriate. This not only helps toddlers practice their negation skills, which is a skill they will need to perfect over their life time and use in every relationship they form, it also allows us to say “I really really need your help right now, can you do this for me please” in times where we need/want the toddler to follow our directions quickly without protest. Could you image being ordered around all the time but you are never able to “give” the orders?
There is an important dance of give and take between children and adults that is a foundation for the relationship. Without negotiation or the give and take of it, the dance can be affected. This dance should be based on respect and part of respecting a child is listening and accepting their ideas, their wishes and doing things their way.