I observed a 3-year old boy, who stood near a swing made of rope with a wooden seat. The boy saw an older girl jump up and hold on a rope to make her sit on the seat and swing back and forth. When the girl left, he stretched his arm upward to hold the rope and shrank his leg to swing, that’s just a little move compare to the girls way of swing. 

 

Every time the older and taller children came, the boy always let them use this rope swing and stood by to watch them jump and sit on the seat. Sometimes the three year old boy even gave the older children a push to make them swing higher and make more joy. He stayed there while others come and went. He liked this play so much that he never went to other places. 

Before the PARS course, I would have thought to myself, “He must need some adults to help him to sit on the seat to swing. I will go help him to sit on the seat and help him to have a nice experience”. I would have thought that it would have felt nice for me to provide assistance and assumed that both of us would be happy about that. But I remembered the method of reflective practice, so I asked myself did I know if the child wanted me to help him? Why did he not ask anyone to help?

So I asked the boy “Why do you not sit on the seat to swing?”

“No, I can’t, for I’m short,” he replied.

“Do you want to sit on it? You can jump up and hold the rope like others do, that will be wonderful”, I said.

“I would like to do that, but I can’t jump so high and can’t have the strength to hold the rope” he answered.

“Do you want me to hold you up to sit on the wood to swing higher?” I said.

“No, I will wait till I grow up and get higher, I’m sure I can do that like the older ones one day”, he refused, with very clear thinking.

I was surprised by his confident and clear plan on how to play and when to play and to achieve his aim without being in haste. So I kept standing by with a sense of uncomfortableness about his refusal and a sense of pity for his missing out on the joy of swinging by sitting on the seat as he could have done if he accepted my help. If I was him, I would very much like to experience swinging high and safely.  But I realized that these were my feelings, not his. So I needed to adjust myself and not to mistake my own feelings as his.

 

The boy continued to try to hold the rope and move his leg towards the swing with a smile on his face. Other boys and girls came to use this rope swing and he was always kind and let them use it.

Then a man came to look at him for some minutes and asked him: “Why you don’t do like others? How much fun they have to sit and swing.”

The boy said, ”They are older and I’m younger. I can’t do this now, but later I can.”

“Your arse isn’t good, not so good as theirs , so you cannot sit on the wood to swing” said the man .

“I’m younger, shorter with less strength, so I can’t do like them”, the boy announced again. He must have been puzzled by the man’s words, and so was I. What did it mean to say that a person’s arse is not good? At this point, a girl came and jumped up to hold the rope to sit on the seat, and swung with exciting shouting.

“When your arse isn’t good, then you cannot sit on the wood, look! She can”, the man commented,  and pushed the girl to make her higher. The boy looked with smile and joined in pushing the girl until she asked for stop.

“I can hold you to sit on the wood stick!” said the man and he held his arm out.

Still the boy refused and said, “I can do it by myself when I grow up in some days.”

“Oh, but then you need to wait for some days or months, why don’t you want to try now?” said the man.

 The boy didn’t respond, just looked at the rope. Maybe he felt his explanation was quite clear.

 “You arse isn’t good, you have a not good arse, little boy, ” the man muttered, shaking his head and leaving.

How firm was the boy to insist on not enjoying him with the present fun if he needed other’s help! How clearly he knew his own needs – he wanted to have fun by himself, regardless of longer time he must wait for this. How confident he was to know he would be competent to do what he wanted to by himself one day and expressed this clearly. That’s really difference from other children and adults like me and the man. It’s so important to know what the children want and need, not impose adults feeling or eagerness onto them. We need to know children’s will and wishes in specific situations.

 

The boy might had been able to hold on to sit, but felt uncomfortable for he was short and would feel uncertain if his feet could not touch the surface of the ground. It’s wise for him to wait until he grows taller. He was right – he couldn’t do what he would like to do, just because he was younger and shorter without enough strength, and not because he had a not good arse like the man said.

I also saw the boy’s mastery of delayed gratification, knowing his own abilities and limits, and making judgments and decisions for himself, without any envy or jealousness of the older children who could do what he couldn’t. He also had a very nice skill of emotional adjustment at 3 years old.  He showed great self confidence in front of older peers and adults, and had a plan for what he would like to do in the future and a plan for his play.

 

Reflective practice is important. If we listen to children carefully, we can know more about them. We need to know the children’s intentions or wishes clearly. We should trust that children can develop naturally and gradually. Adults shouldn’t be over intended even though we are well-meaning. As the traditional saying goes, well-meaning often cause bad results.

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