When Children Act Selfish
Parents and teachers tend to get very cross at young children who don’t share; however, intellectual maturation plays a big role in learning to share. It is normal for young children to see things only from their own viewpoint. This aspect of their intellectual development affects their interactions with others. They are not necessarily being inconsiderate when they overlook a playmate’s feelings; a very young child is often not even aware that someone else has feelings (DeVries & Zan, 2006). It’s not surprising, then, that young children have many conflicts and that their teachers spend a great deal of time dealing with those conflicts. Teachers who understand child development don’t get upset at these normal misunderstandings. Instead, they use the situation as a teachable moment, as Dennis does in this next example:
Luis is playing by himself in the sandbox, carefully filling a dump truck with sand and emptying it, creating a hill. Celeste is playing next to him with a toy bulldozer. She suddenly drives her bulldozer over Luis’s hill to flatten it out for a road. Luis immediately starts to cry and to hit Celeste.
Dennis arrives on the scene and comforts both children. He has observed enough from across the room to say to Luis, “I don’t think Celeste knows why you are upset; can you use your words and tell her?” But Luis is too upset to talk yet, and so Dennis gives him more time by rephrasing the question. By then, Luis is able to say that he didn’t want Celeste to touch his hill.
Dennis realizes that neither child had considered the intentions of the other. Luis thought Celeste was being mean, and Celeste was shocked that he was mad at her. Having encouraged Luis to express his view, he then asks Celeste to explain what she was doing. It turns out that she was trying to be helpful in building a road, not understanding what Luis was doing. With help from Dennis, Luis is able to say, “I don’t want a road, I’m making a hill.” With this information, Celeste is happy to work on her road in another part of the sandbox and all is peaceful, for the moment.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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