By John Muturi
Last week I attended a school’s December holiday closing ceremony and witnessed a rather odd scene. A small boy put his arms around another child’s neck and I thought he was trying to show affection. The ‘victim’ cried for help and her mother went to her son’s aid complaining he was being strangled. The ‘assailant’s’ mother dismissed this.
It emerged that the boy had been banned from another pre-school for such threatening behaviour. Other parents said he posed a threat to their children. Fearing they might remove their children from the school, the head teacher recommended that the boy be enrolled in a special school for children with behaviour problems.
I was saddened by this decision, but didn’t know what else I would have done if I was the head teacher. I talked to a psychologist later and she ruled out excluding the child, terming it a punitive measure even though acknowledging that the needs of the difficult child have to be balanced against the needs of the other children. Exclusion at that age could have devastating effects on the child. She recommended teachers working with parents to form a partnership to try to prevent such eventualities.
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Parents must take responsibility because from age two to four, children copy their parents, seeing them as their role models. Sadly, quite a number of children witness violence in their homes and instinctively copy the behaviour.
Many children are growing up in homes and environments with a lot of problems. For instance, couples are separating or divorcing when children are growing up. That means there is less consistency in the children’s care, and less emphasis on good manners in the home. Indeed, training children good discipline is a lot of hard work and not many parents put enough effort in it.
They should set out clear rules of discipline. Undoubtedly, many parents have double standards. What one parent finds acceptable another parent doesn’t, and the child becomes confused.
Communication is another problem. They become very frustrated because they don’t have the skills to communicate and share. They often have no idea of how to make up pretend games.
Helping her become sociable
By engaging in interactive role-play, children learn valuable social skills, which they will then practise and apply in the real situation. If your child is energetic or displays signs of becoming a bully, you can help her learn to respect other children. Even if she isn’t, all children can benefit from imaginative play.
1. Boost your child’s imagination with visits to museums and parks. Let them watch films and videos with you about subjects that fascinate them-and talk about what you see.
2. Read lots of imaginative stories and discuss them.
3. Sing songs. Children pick up ideas and themes from songs easily.
4. Encourage your child first to colour in, then to draw and paint.
5. Find books and pictures about things she’s interested in and look at them together.
6. Be guided by what your child finds fascinating. Don’t impose your perception of imagination on her.
7. Sit back and watch what she’s doing, then join in if you’re welcome, making sure you give lots of praise.