We have noticed many new friendships blooming in the early, autumn breeze. Helping children move between friends on a weekly and daily basis is a lesson in flexibility for all of us. Young children can have a very difficult time recognizing social cues sent by their peers.
The most common complaints outside are that “Bobby” either won’t play with me or isn’t my friend anymore. There are a couple of directions we could take with these statements. The first is to call over the other student and directly handle the issue, attempting to solve the dilemma for all involved. The second, and more commonly used within the Responsive Classroom approach, is to meet with the affected parties and oversee a discussion in which they solve their own problems.
We encourage the children to tell each other what they are thinking and feeling. Young children (and even adults) often forget to take the other person’s perspective into consideration when weighing an issue. The emotionally injured child frequently finds that the offending party simply “went off to play somewhere else,” not even realizing that someone was left behind. At other times, we discover that the child didn’t truly ask “Bobby” if he wanted to play. Instead, the child stood near “Bobby” and was disappointed when “Bobby” wandered off.
Perspective taking is not something we expect our Pre-K students to master. In fact, it is a skill humans continue to work on throughout life. Four and five year-olds can work on using language to express their own perspective. Vocalization both cements their personal understanding of a situation and allows others to consider a differing point of view.