There are many different books dealing with early childhood education. Each book discusses about, ‘what would be the best ways to teach young children!’ One of the most discussed topics is, ‘how to teach discipline?’. The well-accepted method in teaching discipline seems to teach children according to their behavior while not hurting their ego and emotions. For example, ‘that behavior was not appropriate’ is recommended over ‘you did a bad thing’. Many books suggest these types of strategies to minimize hurting a child’s feelings while teaching the child that a particular attitude would not be accepted in society. These approaches make sense since when a child’s feelings are hurt, the child would have to spend a fare amount of time to recover from it. But the question is, would this be the best strategy? In this article, we will discuss on what would be the best way to teach young children and why?
Who is the decision maker and who should be?
Let’s think about the following example. There is a boy (named T) who is playing with some toys. When he is done with them, he left them on the floor and went to another room to play with other things. Now his mom saw this and asked him to clean up. What normally people do in cases like this is that they would say ‘T, clean up your toys’. Now let’s take a look at this sentence and think about ‘Who is the decision maker?’ It is the mom clearly. When she says ‘Clean up’, it implies that I (mom) made the rule and you should follow. But when we ask parents how do they want to educate their children, many of them would say, ‘To be a leader of some organization’ or, ‘To be a very successful person in society’. If parents want their children to be leaders or successful people, there is one very important thing that they have to realize. What leaders and successful people do every day is to make decisions. Deciding something for their children in any situation won’t be helpful for the children to become leaders. Thus, it should be the children who have to decide what to do. Then, the question is ‘HOW?’
Let children decide what to do!
Considering same cases above, it is very difficult to come up with some other ways to make children decide what to do according to mom’s intention. This is the time when we consider not mentioning what the child did but mentioning about the toys. For example, by saying ‘where do the toys belong?’, now the child starts to realize what he did was not proper. The result would be the same since the child will clean up his toys but from the child’s point of view, it is very different because this time he made the decision to clean up by himself. What mom did was simply ask a question. With this type of approach, there are positive outcomes for children other than making their own decision. That is to think about the situation. When the child was asked with the question – ‘where do the toys belong?’, the child will think logically where and why. One of the unexpected situations from this approach, however, is that the child could challenge the mom with ‘Why?’ For example, the child could challenge the mom by saying ‘why do I have to put them back?’ Some people take this as a problem but in fact it is not. This is the sign that the child is thinking logically and trying to understand what would happen if he didn’t clean them up. In this case, parents should explain what could happen if toys are on the floor. By explaining to the child with possible accidents from the toys, parents now help their child to develop logical thinking. As everybody understands, logical thinking is the most important factor in decision-making. Besides, as mentioned from the article ‘the fundamental principle of education’ (see education session), logical thinking is the most joyful and powerful process in human life. As children develop logical thinking, they will use their brain very actively and build wisdom. Thus, children should be encouraged to keep thinking logically and parents should help them by asking questions as above (the RIGHT questions). Here we ask the last question – ‘what is the RIGHT question, then?’
The ‘right question’
The ‘right question’ is obviously the questions to let children to decide what to do. However, it is not easy to find out what would be the ‘right questions’ for different situations. Then, how do we know what is the ‘right question’ for the given situation? There is one way to find it out relatively easily. That is to see if my decision as a parent is there or not. Here is another example. When parents are crossing the street with their child and the child is distracted by something so the child stops in the middle of the street. And parents say, ‘Why don’t you cross the street with us? It is dangerous stopping in the middle of the road like that.’ Sentences like these bare the parents’ decision. In other words, these two sentences imply that we say you shouldn’t stop in the middle of the street. Thus, these sentences are based on the parents’ judgment. However, if parents ask that ‘what should you do when you are crossing the street?’, the parents’ decision is not there. It is nothing but a simple question. This means that child has to decide what to do. If the child knows about the danger of stopping in the middle of the street, the child would say ‘to not stop in the middle of the street’. If the child is not aware of the situation, the child would ask ‘what happens if I am stopping in the middle of the street?’ The first answer would show that the child is aware of the danger. However, the second answer reflects that the child is not aware about the danger. For the second case, parents can simply explain to the child why it is dangerous. In this way, the children will learn to make decisions and to make connections between their activities with possible consequences through logical thinking. In other words, they will learn how to make decisions based on logical approaches and the questions are the keys to guide children. In other words, the questions without the parents’ decision in them are the ‘right questions’.