There is a never-ending, free supply of the sorts of things that say, “Welcome!” to a child … smiles, forgiveness, love, time, attention, laughter, hugs, encouragement, care, thoughtfulness, patience … all costly in terms of your time and energy, but all free!
‣‣‣ Phil Day
Heres a quick tick list of questions to help you check your personal welcoming attitudes and routines when greeting children … your own children or others in your sphere of influence.
You may agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed in the following questions. Adapt them to your way of viewing children.
In any case, the practices you consciously or unconsciously exhibit are picked up by children over time. They will respond well or react badly to the way they are treated. Many behavioural issues are averted when the welcome children receive is generally positive, helpful and healthy.
- Do you highly esteem children?
- Do you light up with a smile when you see and greet children?
- Do you see each child as unique, important and special?
- Do you value your children for who they are and not for what they can do for you?
- Do you love your children unconditionally even though and despite certain unacceptable behaviours that may or may never be changed.
- Do you come out from behind what you are doing and greet children face to face?
- Do you gift children with a moment or two of quality time despite being busy
- Do you drop down to their eye level in order to speak to them?
- Do you win them over to you by your welcome?
- Do you have a special and appropriate welcome routine with a child?
Children pick up the vibe of ‘welcome’ or ‘not welcome’ from the spaces they are invited into.
Sometimes there is nothing that can be done about the environments children find themselves in. Cold, smelly, messy spaces might be fun as a place for adventure, but for normal living and normal programs, problems may emerge. This is also a part of what it means to provide an engaging environment. (See Tool #2)
If children are given these uninviting spaces regularly for their activities in the home or for their programs, it is often the cause of a range of unhelpful reactions we will later have to deal with.
In the worst cases, unhealthy environments may lead to health issues. Such issues will have a detrimental effect on the behaviours of children in the short and long term.
‘Not safe’ is the opposite of ‘welcome’. A hurt of any form delivers an unhelpful message and trust is lost and needs to be regained. If children learn they are not safe in relationships, their behaviours will naturally reflect this.
Sometimes children have phobias that may result in reactions to some situations. Often children will grow out of such phobias but in the mean time, dealing with the issues in the spaces or managing the relationships of the child in the space will be important.
Part of the welcome children experience also has to do with comfort. Behaviour management issues will result if children are too cold or too hot.
Children are sometimes not able to pinpoint or say what it is that is making them uncomfortable. Adults can cope with many things and may not even realise these might be a problem for children.
Here are a few things to check for:
- A comfortable temperature in the space or a way of adding more or less clothes.
- Safety with respect of health issues: general cleanliness, normal relationships to the ‘germs of life’.
- Toilets that are easy to use or an easy way of managing; discrete supervision; hand washing etc. Showing children where these are.
- People: processes for managing the safety of children. Procedures for application forms, police checks, interviews, referee checks, best practice training.
- People: processes for managing the potential for bullies, cliques, confronting personalities, inclusion/exclusion, understanding processes and routines.
- Phobias or discomforts that children may express: animals/strangers/clowns/noise/mess.
- General feel of the place … inviting for children or scary?
When children trust you and trust the welcome you give, they will more readily receive the message (verbal and non-verbal) that they are special, loved and important. This will not be lost when, down the track, you are addressing behaviours that are not acceptable.