Children need to learn the skills ofproblem solving in the same way that they need
to learn the skills to get dressed. Think of all the little steps children need to practice
and perfect to put on a pair ofpants.They have to find the front ofthe pants,coordi-
nate putting in one leg at a time, pull the pants up over their hips, and learn how to
work the fastenings.What is so easy for adults takes time and practice for children to
master.When we realize the many skills children need to solve problems on their own,
we can understand why problem solving is so challenging for young children and why
they need so much support.
Respect—“I have unique gifts and challenges,and so do others.”
Almost every preschool activity book includes an activity called “I Am Special.”
However, developing a respect for oneself and others is far more than that. “I Am
Special”guides children inward toward an egocentric view,but it is equally important
to turn children’s attention outward.Help children focus on recognizing and celebrat-
ing the unique gifts that each individual brings to the group.At the same time,we want
children to appreciate that everyone has their own challenges.When children learn to
respect their own uniqueness and the uniqueness ofothers,they can begin to appreci-
ate how powerful they can be when they join in with others to complete a project or a
task.Help children value interdependence as much as they value independence.
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Children come to early childhood classrooms with a whole range ofskills and person-
alities. Some children are beginning to read while others have no previous experience
with books.Some children are social butterflies who draw peers to them like bees to a
flower.Other children are content to play alone.Some children are well on their way to
developing the six strengths,and others have barely begun.
What steps can a teacher take to help individual children reach their destination of
social and emotional competency? What role does a teacher play in guiding children
along that path?
As you read through the six strengths,specific children may have popped into your
mind.Reflect now on those children you know or have worked with.Think ofa child
who has the six strengths. How does she behave? Think of a child who lacks many of
these strengths. What kinds of behavior do you see from him? If you are like many
other teachers, your own evidence shows that children who have these six strengths
tend to do well in life,while those who don’t have these strengths tend to struggle more.
When children present us with challenging behavior,we are in a hurry to stop that
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