Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Child's Remorse and Forgiveness is Not Yours to Control

How many times have you said to a child:  "Tell him you are sorry."?    
Chances are, your answer is:  "Too many to count."

What about this:  "She said she is sorry.  Tell her you forgive her."

For whatever reason adults feel the need to "coach" children through the act of apologizing and forgiving, but when while we think we are "coaching" what we are truly doing is CONTROLLING and fabricating something that should be authentic and from the heart.

Authentic remorse and forgiveness are owned by a child... they cannot be controlled by an adult.  They can be taught through example... not through control.

If you have heard my "Empowering Children Through the Gift Of Control" workshop, you know I hold "trust" in high regards.  Specifically,  trusting children. 

WHY is trust so important?
 Knowing someone trusts us is empowering.  

Empowered children are able to develop a solid foundation of self regulation, they are more apt try new things, stand up for themselves, and own their mistakes.   Apologizing to someone is basically owning your mistake.

Today, a situation happened in my play school that backs what I just said:

Oliver threw water on Sam.

It is October, in South Dakota.  It's not the kind of weather where you say "thank you!" to someone who just threw water on you.  

To say this did not go over well is an understatement.  

After consoling and getting dry clothing for Sam, and having a very firm, yet loving conversation with Oliver, all was well.

NOTE:  There was no adult-ordered apology, and no apology was authentically offered.

Fast forward thirty minutes:

Out of no where, Oliver went over to Sam and said:  "Sam, I am really sorry for throwing water on you."

My inner adult-control-freak was going BONKERS.... I wanted to hear "It's okay, I forgive you" come out of Sam's mouth SO BADLY.  BUT.. instead of telling him to say those words, I simply said "Hey Sam!  Did you notice that Oliver is apologizing?"

Sam looked at me and said "Yup."

Fast forward about fifteen more minutes:

Out of no where, Sam walked over to Oliver and gave him a hug.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury..... I rest my case.

Young children (the children in this story are 3 and 5) CAN be trusted to give authentic apologies and own their forgiveness, handing it out when they feel it is appropriate to do so.

Now... I know what you are thinking.  Well.. if we can't coach, then HOW do we teach children about remorse and forgiveness?


If the adults in children's lives are doing their jobs well, there should be ample time for children to learn about apologizing and forgiving THROUGH OBSERVATION.  It is YOU JOB to be an EXAMPLE.  It is NOT your job to control that in which children can be trusted to control themselves.

The author of this blog is Denita Dinger, Defender of Play and owner of Kaleidoscope Play School and Play Counts Consulting.

If you are interested in having Denita keynote your upcoming early childhood professional conference or training, you can email her at for more information.

Friday, October 2, 2015

"WOW!" Born from "Whoops!"

There is always a pendulum of some sort in my play school program.  


Why pendulums?

At the forefront of pendulum play is visual tracking, a vital piece of the literacy foundation.  

In order to successfully read, we all need to be able to follow a row of print, and then return our eyes to the very next row.  This is called visual tracking.  Ipads and iphones are ruining a child's ability to develop their visual tracking skills correctly.  Visual tracking needs to happen in LARGE SPACES with DEPTH before tracking things on a smaller plane.  Please do not give young children iphones or ipads to play with.  We are ruining eye development and therefore harming future reading success.  Give them pendulums instead.

Pendulum play is also loaded with social benefits, builds a beautiful foundation for science, math and provides fantastic social-play opportunities.

What hangs at the end of our pendulum can be anything from a PVC connector to a swing.

Sometimes I hang the balloon pendulum VERY they have to really reach and stretch and jump to hit the balloon.  While sometimes I hang it an inch off the ground so they can kick it with their feet (we don't wear shoes in my program).  Kicking requires a whole lot of core strength and balance and 

I use para cord attached to various eye hooks that are attached to studs in the ceiling of my play school..... my husband LOVES drilling holes into our basement ceiling for me (insert LOTS of sarcasm).


This particular story I am about to tell (grab a blanket and get cozy...) begins as a story about a balloon pendulum, but it quickly grows into so much more.

It was "stuffed animal day" (as requested by one of my stuffed-animal-lovers) and Bennett was giving Zippity a ride on the balloon pendulum.

The children were having a blast playing with the pendulum as this was the first time this year a balloon was attached.  

LAST YEAR...... we all learned a valuable lesson:  if you pull on the balloon, it will eventually get a tiny hole and slowly shrink before our eyes.  The children learned to play in a different way with the balloon pendulum.

Fast forward to this year...... that lesson had been forgotten

Out of the blue, I heard a child exclaim:  "DENITA!  LOOK!  The balloon looks like an apple!"

Sure enough, the balloon had suffered a small puncture wound, and was losing air at an alarming rate.

I announced:  "Boys and girls.  We need to have a meeting."

We then talked about what was happening to the balloon and why -- you should have seen the hands-to-forehead expressions as the children were like "OH YA!  WE FORGOT!"

I told them I would hang up a new balloon tomorrow, but for today, we would play with this deflated balloon.  I am thinking:  "This will really be a good opportunity for them to use self regulation in the future to control how THEY are playing with the balloon"

And then.........this happened:

And the balloon SNAPPED and FLEW into the air.... clearly, Noelle did NOT have a clue what had happened... but the observing child on the cozy chair did (look at their eyes)

As quickly as the balloon had disappeared from site.... it returned.  And Noelle was like "OH!  There you are!"

As you can imagine.  This discovery was completely and totally ASTOUNDING for my littles.  I love it when an opportunity to patiently take turns presents itself so naturally.

It didn't take too long, before the already injured balloon broke off, and my littles learned that I trusted them to throw the two pieces of balloon away.
I then added a new, deflated balloon to the pendulum so this valuable moment could continue.

Next up was a child who had been observing from a distance.  Do not under estimated the value of a child who appears to be doing "nothing at all" for they are learning SO MUCH through observation.  As these photos clearly show, this child had observed enough to be able to predict what was going to happen when he snapped the balloon:

Watch this child's eyes.  He had collected enough information through observation to predict what would happen....only.... it didn't happen!  What a grand opportunity for handling failure and exploring problem solving and perseverance. 

"Hey Denita!  I learned something!  You can't let go slow!  You have to let go FAST!"

And then..... THIS happened:

 The balloon did not come back down.  (insert GASP!)

Call in the troops!  EMERGENCY!  The balloon needs rescuing!

TEAMWORK solved the problem!  (well.. according to Bennett "No.  Zippity did, Denita" :) )

After the great rescue, the play continued, as did the visual tracking, motor control, visual planning, empowerment, problem solving, turn taking, perseverance and, let's not forget:  FUN!

And so my story ends. 
It is really a simple tale.  Child makes a mistake, mistake turns into a moment of heartbreak, moment of heartbreak turns into a new discovery, new discovery opens up an entire morning of empowering exploration full of failing, persevering, solving, succeeding, collaborating and pre-literacy (visual tracking is VITAL for future reading success).

The most beautiful part:  in the eyes of my littles, this was nothing but another day of play.  And a child's play is truly their work.

The Author:
Denita Dinger is an international keynote presenter and owner of Kaleidoscope Play School.  Contact her for more information: