Of all the admirable traits that children under the age of five possess, I am most appreciative of their distinct honesty. An adult life largely spent among large numbers of preschoolers has led me to understand that at no time in their future will these humans ever be so open, so unguarded and so comfortable in their own skin. In countless ways during the school day they present me with the possibility of strengthening this opinion. All I have to do is offer a vegetable stick during snack time to see someone’s unfiltered, unadapted attitude.
If a child is happy, their countenance radiates this. Similarly, stress or sadness is transmitted through body language and sometimes social difficulties. Exhaustion can manifest in an inability to connect with learning materials that are carefully chosen to inspire interest. Inner contentment is seen when a child must practice patience or disappointment but is nonetheless comfortable coping with the situation and developing an alternative plan.
The words of young children are especially important to me, since they frequently share their thoughts and convictions freely. If my outfit equates to a good effort but is missing that elusive element that makes it complete, the keen eye of a fashion conscious child will point this out in a kind but brutally honest manner. Once I wore a black angora sweater to school, only to be told that it made me look like King Kong.
This was hardly meant as an insult, but neither could it be taken as a compliment. I am forever grateful to that young boy for pointing out my faux pas, and decided to always dress with the light on ever after.
In return for their honest assessment of our overall performance, children expect honesty from us. It seems logical that we should acknowledge their innumerable questions with short, factual and age-appropriate answers. Children are rarely seeking a sermon from us, nor are they willing to settle for something that does not respect their dignity. Even a three year old understands when another person is trying to manipulate, coerce, or dominate them. This never brings productive engagement, either at home or at school. It usually turns things ugly, or at best generates tension, which brings me to a piece of wisdom that I have been allowed to absorb over time. A child has the capacity to observe, to imitate, to appreciate, to evaluate and to be inspired far beyond what is typically expected of them. With this in mind, I have made it a priority to support my students, and my own children in the most meaningful way possible, providing them with intellectual stimulation, an aesthetic learning space and the respect due to them.
How do you respond to the childhood honesty of the early learners in your life?