Working in a busy school with so many little faces peering up at me is quite a challenge. The needs and concerns presented by each little developing mind can be daunting. I want to take a moment to ask you to consider the quiet child when you ponder the vast sea of educational and psychological perplexities of whom teachers and parents attempt to nurture into adulthood.
“Consider this cautionary tale, told to me by Dr. Jerry Miller, a child psychologist and the director of the Center for the Child and the Family at the University of Michigan. Dr. Miller had a patient named Ethan, whose parents brought him for treatment on four separate occasions. Each time, the parents voiced the same fears that something was wrong with their child. Each time, Dr. Miller assured them that Ethan was perfectly fine.
The reason for their initial concern was simple enough. Ethan was seven, and his four-year-old brother had beaten him up several times. Ethan didn’t fight back. His parents—both of them outgoing, take-charge types with high-powered corporate jobs and a passion for competitive golf and tennis—were OK with their younger son’s aggression, but worried that Ethan’s passivity was “going to be the story of his life.”
As Ethan grew older, his parents tried in vain to instill “fighting spirit” in him. They sent him onto the baseball diamond and the soccer field, but Ethan just wanted to go home and read. He wasn’t even competitive at school. Though very bright, he was a B student. He could have done better people, who were “always smiling, always talking to people while dragging Ethan along behind them.”
Compare their worries about Ethan to Dr. Miller’s assessment: “He was like the classic Harry Potter kid—he was always reading,” says Dr. Miller enthusiastically. “He enjoyed any form of imaginative play. He loved to build things. He had so many things he wanted to tell you about. He had more acceptance of his parents than they had of him. He didn’t define them as pathological, just as different from himself. That same kid in a different home would be a model child.”
But Ethan’s own parents never found a way to see him in that light. The last thing Dr. Miller heard was that his parents finally consulted with another psychologist who agreed to “treat” their son. And now Dr. Miller is the one who’s worried about Ethan.
“This is a clear case of an ‘iatrogenic’ problem,’ ” he says. “That’s when the treatment makes you sick. These parents are very caring and well-meaning people. They feel that without “mindfulness and understanding, any parent can have a good fit with any kind of child, says Dr. Miller. But parents need to step back from their own preferences and see what the world looks like to their quiet children.”
Excerpt From: Cain, Susan. “Quiet.” Crown Publishers, 2013-01-29. iBooks.
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Recently, I heard of a workshop at a nearby botanical garden called "Build a Secret Garden".
This idea has really got me thinking...
Some may gasp "What if there is a spider in that secret garden for goodness sakes?!"
But have we lost something in our zeal to protect?
That sacred connection between nature and a child's developing soul and mind has been severed in our modern age of protectionism and extreme business. The necessity for these overstimulated and overmanaged children to retreat is overlooked and under appreciated by our modern over-achieving extroverted culture.
Do children these days have anyplace like this?
Everywhere I go I see lots of "safe" and simple plastic toys. Sterile and clean is the predominant theme. But unfortunately the healing balm of nature is decidedly absent.
I am concerned that we are not the better for it.
I worry for the hurried child, the overstimulated child, the child who lacks space to create. There is nothing like being surrounded by nature to heal and calm an overloaded brain. Lets be attentive to those little ones who cross our path and who are so easily overlooked and forgotten.
For more information and statistics regarding the link between nature and pre-school children click here.