As with any other behaviors they are taught in school, pro-social behaviors must be reinforced at home (U.S. Department, 2011). Practicing with the child can go a long way toward developing an understanding of acceptable behavior. Many parents leave this up to the school, but children generally want to emulate what they see at home. As they move into pre-school and learn new ways to interact with people, those ways should be encouraged at home. This will help the family dynamics, and will also help the pre-school teachers who are looking for ways to ensure that order is kept in their classrooms.
When parents talk to their children about what they have learned that day, and when they correct their children when they make a social faux pas, they are helping their children learn valuable lessons that those children will use all throughout their school years and into adulthood (U.S. Department, 2011). It is possible for a child to get through school without being social, but to succeed in the world one generally has to be able to interact with others. The earlier children learn this skill, the more opportunity they will have to practice it before they need it for issues such as working in a corporate environment or making friends and eventually finding the right person with which they want to start a family (McCollum & Yates, 1994).
Children need to be taught from an early age that they have value (U.S. Department, 2011). They do not need other people's approval in order to have worth or do something important in their lives. There is a balance to be found between not needing the approval of others and not caring what other people think. It can be hard to find or maintain that balance to some degree, but most children are capable of doing it if they have instruction as to how to accomplish it correctly (McCollum & Yates, 1994). They need to see the behaviors modeled at home, as well, and they need to have reinforcement of their value at home. Even though children need to be taught that they have value no matter what anyone else says, that does not mean that they do not need or desire any kind of praise or external validation as they grow up.
Praise should be realistic. Children who are never praised have a hard time with self-esteem, but children who are praised and lauded for every tiny accomplishment also struggle (Buysee & Wesley, 2005). That happens because children begin to rely too much on what someone else is saying about them. Then, if they do something and do not receive praise, they begin to question what they have done wrong or why the task they completed was not valuable to them. Pre-school children need a balance between being praised for important accomplishments and disciplined for things that they have done incorrectly (Buysee & Wesley, 2005). The levels of these should be relatively consistent in school and at home in order to foster a sense of stability for the child in his or her earliest and most formative years. When pre-school teachers meet with parents, they can get a good sense of how much praise and discipline a child is getting at home, and whether the parents are relatively in line with what is being addressed at school (Buysee & Wesley, 2005).
Overall, what children learn in the classroom should be very similar in nature to what they learn at home. When parents and teachers work together, the child benefits the most from what he or she is taught. Naturally, there are always some differences. Teachers may discipline children for behavior that the children are allowed to engage in at home. Teachers may also praise students for something that the parents would not see as much of an accomplishment. When parents are concerned about the well-being of their children, though, they will often be willing to work with teachers on family-centered ways to help those children succeed. That does not mean that the parents should do everything that the teachers says should be done, or completely change their parenting style. That is not the goal of family-centered approaches to self-esteem, attachment, and other issues.
Instead, the goal of these approaches is to help the children develop the life skills that they will need. The earlier they develop these, the better. When those skills are taught at school and reinforced by family members, the children are much more likely to learn the skills because they are needed in more than one area of life. Children are very resilient and adaptable, and they can learn quickly. If they see and hear the right kinds of lessons, they will use those lessons all throughout their lives. Teaching them the wrong behaviors can result in the same life usage, unfortunately, which is why it is critical that families and teachers work together to teach children life lessons that will be beneficial to them no matter what their age.
Buysee, V., & Wesley, P.W. (2005). Consultation in early childhood settings. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.
Levin, H. M & Schwartz, H.L. (2007). Educational vouchers for universal pre-schools. Economics of Education Review, 26, 3-16.
Levin, H.M., & Schwartz, H.L. (2007, March). What is the cost of a preschool program? National Center for the study of Privatization in Education. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the AEFA Annual Conference, Baltimore, Maryland.
McCollum, J.A., & Yates, T., (1994). Dyad as focus, triad as means: A family-centered approach to supporting parent-child interactions. Infants and Young Children, 6, 54-66.
National Education Association. (2011). Early childhood education.
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