Sunday, April 30, 2000

Give Kids Control Without Losing Control

(Orginally from The KC SAC Connection, April 2000: Volume 1, Issue 1)
David Whitaker, Toolbox Training

One of the biggest issues facing child care programs is how to balance control between the adults and the children. If adults don’t maintain enough control, the result is chaos. However, if the adults don’t allow the children any control, the children will be angry and frustrated.

To successfully balance these two elements, child care providers must gain an understanding of control and how to both maintain it and give it. When it comes to understanding control, we often have negative connotations of the word. The word is considered synonymous with confining, limiting, manipulating, and restricting. Control should really be viewed as a word that speaks about boundaries. Control is about having freedom to move within a certain framework.

To maintain control in a child care program, workers must use three I’s - interest, involvement, and interaction. Essentially, all child care providers should keep this pledge to keep their three I’s focused: I will keep moving so that I can always see what’s going on. I will be two places at once - one with my body and another with my eyes. I will ask open-ended questions to gain insight into children’s activities. Through these methods, adults can create boundaries for children that give them freedom to explore and learn on their own, but in a safe, stimulating, and appealing environment.

Adults also have to be willing to give children control. There are essentially three methods for doing so - talk about it, do it, and talk some more. These three approaches capture the idea that children should be involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating the program if it is to be successful. We must remember that the child care program should belong to the children, not the adults.

Those are just a few tips for giving kids control without losing control. For more ideas, consider the Give Kids Control Without Losing Control workshop, also available as a do-it-yourself training package.