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I can't let you do that...

Setting boundaries with loving guidance helps your child navigate the complex world of social competence, increases their sense of belonging and helps them to make friends and participate in group activities. Two and three year old's are often testing boundaries while they are finding increasing levels of independence.

Let's start by thinking about parenting styles. Which parenting style do you use?

  1. Authoritarian parenting, which "is do things my way or else". This can lead to power struggles and defiance as the child tries to control the world around them when they try to model the inflexible social behaviour with others.

  2. Backbone parenting, which lets children know there are boundaries and expectations within a flexible, sensible, loving approach, where discrete choices are offered but there are natural consequences to the child's actions. Choices allow the child to feel a sense of control and provides the opportunity to practice accountable decision making.

  3. The jellyfish parenting style goes with the whims of the child, has lax or no boundaries which leads to the child being confused or being the one taking control. When there are no consistent boundaries the child responds by considering rules as optional which can lead to challenging behaviour in the classroom.

  4. Helicopter parenting style the parent hovers overhead overseeing every aspect of their childs life.

A backbone parenting style works well for harmonious family/classroom dynamics as children grow older. Characteristics of backbone parenting style include:

  • Being a coach – considered,, consistent, firm and friendly

  • Calm interactions - calm breeds calm, anger/aggression/frustration breeds anger/aggression/frustration

  • You believe your child to be confident and capable and provide choices to give them some control

  • Role modelling – self-control, ability to walk away, regulating your own thermostat, show what sorry looks like, good manners

  • You are quietly disciplined

  • You model playfulness, respect and gratitude.

Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that you’re not parenting your child alone, we are here to help also. A cornerstone of Magic Garden's priorities for learning is fostering social competence and social justice.

Being kind, friendly and learning how to make friends is a significant area of

social development that needs constant support and reinforcement for two and

three-year old's. Teachers coach children about the boundaries for friendly play, including how to:

  • talk kindly with friends

  • be gracious about not wanting to join someone else's play idea

  • be fair with turn taking and following each other’s ideas

During your child's day there are plenty of opportunities to practice social niceties that make up good manners. We constantly talk with children about being kind, friendly and helpful. The role of being a helper shifts children out of their own agenda and in return they get appreciation, positive feedback and increased sense of pride in themselves (mana), and amongst their peers. Using good manners is an important aspect in citizenship, our civic capacity involves getting along with others and contributing to society.

A positive guidance strategy we use at Magic Garden is the image of a ‘thinking hat’. We use this term to promote children making clever plans for their play and it extends to using good manners. Teachers then describe what manners might look like in this moment – is it listening to your friend; is it doing as you’re asked the first time; is it waiting a turn, asking for a turn? When manners haven’t been used after repeated requests, the consequences need to be consistent. Being removed from the situation, losing the right to our immediate attention, this leads to taking time to find their manners. Occasionally we might need to move the child away, saying “come and find me when you are ready to try again with your clever manners and be …. (whatever is appropriate for the situation).

Teachers need to discern when behaviour is an ‘I won’t’ versus an ‘I can’t’, this requires judgement in any given moment. Sometimes meltdown can be averted with “It looks like you’re too tired to use your manners, come and have a cuddle, and we’ll try again in a minute”.

Teachers look to problem solving together, this is done by empathizing alongside the child, describing the child's emotions and expressing their dilemma, then inviting the child to help solve the problem “Let’s think about how we can work this out”, “Have you got any ideas?”

Teachers cue up children to make them aware of another way to handle the situation they find themselves in. A number of our effective sayings include:

"I can't let you do that because..." (providing an impersonal, decision made by agreed rules i.e. it's not safe; too rough; not kind; not fair; not helpful.

`I can see that's not going to end well'

'What is your plan.'

“We can have.... (mat time/story/food etc) as soon as.... (the toys are packed away/eaten/gone to the bathroom, washed your hands etc)

"blocks are for construction" (describe what the objects purpose is.... not throwing, chewing etc)

“I know you can manage this”

“Yes, certainly, you can have...., after....." (We look for was to say yes rather than no)

“Let’s think about another way we can solve this.” “Have you got any ideas?”

"Can you help your friend..."

When a difficult behavioral situation reoccurs planning cues can help:

  • Change of activity or transition: Five minutes warning, 'Count down... 5 mins, 4 mins, 3 mins, 2 mins, 1 min (its time to pack away/put on your shoes, Times up lets go...'

  • 'Prepare for exiting - practice the script

  • Count downs' something measurable, e.g. `five more pushes on the swing then we are going... '

  • Anticipate triggers - tiredness, anxiety…

  • Plan for down time

  • Inspiring expectation “ I am looking forward to...”

Respectful and consistent boundaries and routines build grounded confidence in a child. Children fear rejection, disappointment, isolation and abandonment Build in together times - 20 mins x 3 a week doing something they like to restore their sense of being lovable, worthwhile and enjoyable.

When you find yourself in a battle of wills or a power struggle, allow a way out for you both without losing face., Some examples of escape plans:

  • Offer a time to talk about it (cool down, then promise of re-connection)

  • Let yourself calm down (cup of tea, gather your resources)

  • Listen to the feeling behind your words is that the message you are wanting to convey?

  • Save face – retain power (close your eyes/count to 10)

  • Offer a cuddle (this can comfort both of you)

  • Give yourself a chance to replay what happened to think about different strategies and cues to use to improve future interactions/outcomes.

  • A backup support plan, talk to - friend/teacher/family member and ask them to help support and reinforce the process..

Leadership and responsibility expectations of older children

Teachers have an expectation that the older children in the group are an extension of our eyes and ears. We expect them to be making choices about doing the right thing at the right time (this is the beginnings of a good social and moral conscience). Our older children have been with us long enough to know the expected ways of being in the room and we extol them to be more responsible with the centre materials and help care for the younger children joining the room.

Allowing children to step up to be responsible and provide leadership is a welcomed opportunity for young children. We encourage tuakana - teina, a teaching approach that values the relationship between older or more experienced children and those they teach, as well as the mutual sharing of experience between each other.

It takes a village to raise a child, we are all in this together. We all have a role to play in raising children who are a joy to be with.


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