I live in a world where I constantly have the opportunity to evaluate how other people interact with children. My goal is never to judge, but to analyze, solely for the purposes of data collecting, improving my own methods, and spreading awareness. I like to have a running list in my mind of what works, what doesn’t, and why children act the way they do.
In recent years, however, I’ve become increasingly interested in why adults act the way they do. I almost always know why a child is behaving in a certain way or why they’re responding to an adult in a certain way, but why do adults make the decisions they make in regards to behavior?
Why do certain adults find certain kids so obnoxious? Why do certain adults gravitate towards certain kids? Why do teachers/parents decide that certain expectations are acceptable while others are not?
I watched and listened to a lot of different adults who interacted with a zillion different children, but my questions seemed to never stop coming. It was like as soon as I was about to reach an answer to the WHYs of adults, I just found another question about that answer.
Why do we reprimand children when they’re loud? Why do we reward children who are quiet? Why do we encourage stillness? Why do we discourage movement? Why do we enjoy submissiveness? Why do we dislike pushback? Why do we prefer children who cause warm feelings in us and avoid children who cause us to feel annoyed? Why do we have emotional reactions to children at all, in regards to their personalities? Why do we emotionally react to their decisions?
Why? Why? Why?
Most of those answers eventually came down to the fact that we, as adults, prefer to control our environments. And when we control them, we want to be able to shape them into what is easy, comfortable, and socially acceptable.
I can already hear the opposing questions to this. “Are you suggesting we don’t teach our children to make our lives easier, which teaches them to be aware of others? Are we supposed to let our children/students do whatever they want? Become heathens? Make everyone around them miserable? Become nuisances? Break the rules of the society they’ll be forced to live in as adults?”
Those questions are all valid, but they focus on the wrong part of the problem. Rather than asking whether or not we should teach our children to fit into the society that has been created for them, we should be asking whether or not we’re perpetuating a society that includes or excludes varying personalities, abilities, interests, and cultural backgrounds.
Are the rules we’re making encompassing a variety of children, or are they only making room for children who make our lives simpler?
Are the quiet kids really behaving better than the loud kids? Or are the quiet kids just more comfortable in silence? Are the introverted kids really more careful than the extroverted kids? Or are the extroverted kids just more courageous? Are we reigning certain kids back into a box that doesn’t fit them, while simultaneously congratulating other kids for fitting into a box of what feels safe to them? Are we challenging the kids who have “behaviors,” while not pushing the “good” kids out of their boxes of comfort at all?
Are we drawing the boxes that kids are required to live in, and are we doing so simply for the purpose of making our days run more smoothly? Are we punishing kids who are naturally more extroverted, curious, courageous, and questioning?
I don’t know the answer to these questions yet, but the fact that I’ve started to ask them lets me know that I’ve probably been guilty of most of them.
When we walk into our homes/classrooms/daycares this year, let’s start to ask ourselves why WE’RE doing what we’re doing, instead of continuing to ask only why our children are doing what they’re doing. Let’s turn the microscope around and start to question the rules we’ve made and why they’re in place.
Let’s question the culture we’ve created just as frequently as we question the children in it.