When I started teaching (well… okay, for many years) I was serious about it. This was an IMPORTANT JOB. These children are going to be affected by the way I handle things in meaningful ways, and what they learn or don’t learn in preschool is up to me. Their success in kindergarten in hanging in the balance! I needed to get over myself. Luckily, eventually I did, with the help of amazing mentors with great senses of humor.

I was both right and wrong. They are affected, but not by my actions or even my words as much as my mood. It is serious, but also they won’t remember most of our interactions in a couple of weeks or months, never mind by the end of a year or 3 or beyond. That quote from Maya Angelou about how people won’t remember what you said and did, but will remember the way you made them feel? Children live that every day.

Bev Bos used to say that it is essential for the adults working with kids to be less egocentric than the children. So, if you are getting personally offended by something a child says or does, stop. It’s not about you! I promise. If you are battling with a child over something that is not safety-related (and safety vs. risk is a whole topic by itself), ask yourself, will the end of the world come if I let this go (Bev, again)? Whose needs are being met when I insist on this? Could I possibly share power and control in this situation? Am I saying no for no good reason (you might have a reason, but is it essential that you have your way?).

If you use the words “no” or “can’t” sparingly, they will be more effective when you do need them. You are laying the groundwork for a positive relationship when children see that you want to and try to say yes to them. In programs where children are redirected and told what to do frequently, they start to police each other and/or sneak around the “rules” when their primary adults aren’t watching. Ideally, we want for children to get their power needs met in more appropriate, win-win ways (the children will always win in the end, so it’s better to all be on the same team as much as possible).

Lighten up. This is supposed to be fun! People say, “Oh, you work with preschoolers, you must have so much patience!” I have developed patience for the more trying times (we’ve all had those days when we don’t feel effective at meeting all the needs), but I usually say, “No, if you’re enjoying them and laughing a lot, patience is not required.” Children are doing what children do. What if what this child is doing right now (other than hurting another child or destroying property, of course) were totally fine with me? How would that feel? So much of the stress I felt as a beginning teacher was trying to get the kids to do something they didn’t want to do, or trying to stop them from following their own agendas. What if I could find a way to say yes to their ideas? What if I actually believed that their ideas were better than mine?

Are you going along for the ride, or are you paddling upstream? Can you find some humor in this situation, or do you have a coworker that could help you see it? Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Instead of trying to get the children on board your ship so you can steer, maybe you can visualize being in a boat alongside theirs, ready to throw them a tow line if needed, but all enjoying the adventure together.