In early childhood, children are traveling through various stages of development. Not only are they making strides cognitively, physically, and socially and emotionally, they are also forming their moral compass. This is the age where teachers can really make a difference. This is a smorgasbord of teachable moments. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “That’s not fair!”…well, you know the saying. In all seriousness, I do hear about the unfairness and injustices of being a kid several times a day. It’s not fair that teachers get a cookie, it’s not fair that parents can drive, it’s not fair that my classmate gets to be line leader. Sound familiar?
One of my mottos is “Fair does not mean equal,” which is a concept that is somewhat meaningless at three, but becoming relevant at seven. Preschoolers are beginning to understand right and wrong, and by elementary school, moving away from choices based on avoiding punishment toward making decisions based on fairness. At this age, children are developmentally egotistic – they have limited ability to see another person’s point of view.
An important part of a teacher’s (and parent’s) job is to help children see other’s perspectives. Through stories, role-play, and discussion, children do begin to understand that their viewpoint is not always the best, or only, way to look at something. Teachers should also allow children to practice conflict resolution. Rather than jumping in to fix the problem, the children should have a chance to work it out on their own. As a parent, I often forget to allow my children to fight and come to their own compromise or conclusion. I remind myself to take a deep breath and let them slam doors, yell, and finally choose to either spend time apart or compromise. Both are reasonable solutions!
By providing children opportunities to experience conflicts (through stories, discussion, or real-life situations), we are giving them practice in perspective. Nobody learned to read overnight, and teaching character takes time and patience, too!