When I was a co-teacher in a 2-year-old class at a half-day preschool, one of the oldest children was Ryan. He was very sweet and sensitive.
In free play at school Ryan did fine, but he had a lot of feelings about his dad that came up during circle time, which came immediately after. He often cried a lot. There was an expectation that the little ones would all sit quietly throughout circle, so Ryan’s emotions bothered the teacher who was trying to lead the activities, and she would typically tell Ryan, “It is not time to cry now.”
I offered go with Ryan to the playground. Over several days, I listened to him for long cries. His language was not yet well-developed, but he would say, “My daddy home,” and cry harder. I would listen and make eye contact with him while he cried.
After four days of this (which felt like a lot more than four), he looked in my eyes at the end of his cry and I could tell that he felt heard.
After that day, he was like a different child, and from then on he remained so much calmer, and this lasted throughout the rest of the year.
This experience with Ryan drove home the point that Staylistening may be a simple tool but when used in a school setting it is not always easy.
One day when I listened to Ryan outside, a teacher walked by and commented he was a lost cause. “He might not be ready for school. He needs to learn not to cry,” she said.
It was a challenge to go on in this setting, since most of the educators seemed to think I was being too easy on the children and was making a mistake by not trying to control them. Many preschool teachers, relying on their own experience as students and with outdated training, approach behavior management in a way that does not respect emotions.
But in the months that followed my listening with him, Ryan became one of the most easy-going children in the class, and was almost always happy. He arrived happy in the morning and was always the first to go to potty.
I know that this tool helped him, and helped me, to support his growth.
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:
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Laura Minnigerode is a certified Hand in Hand Instructor living in Austin, Texas with her partner, 3 children and 3 dogs.
You can contact Laura at Listening for Good