Tuesday, October 4, 2011

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Remember that poem "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum? Boy, has that been on my mind lately.

Almost every day since school started, Alyssa has been coming home upset with stories about how friends were not nice.

The types of things we are talking about are things like excluding friends from the group, not cooperating while figuring out what they want to play, saying hurtful things like "you're not my friend" or "I wish you didn't go to this school." (Ouch!)

Initially, I was so surprised that we were having these types of friendship experiences in kindergarten, but it turns out I'm not alone. Some even say it's normal. (Yuck!)

Lately, I've spoken with many moms who have had children in kindergarten, and they all say they've experienced the same thing. REALLY? Oh my gosh! I thought kids wouldn't learn how to hurt someone's feelings until later -- much later.

I have found it difficult to teach Alyssa how to be a good friend. The dynamics seem to be so complex and mature for this age. But, believe me, I have been working on it. We've read age-appropriate books, we've had many mother-daughter conversations, we've prayed, we've asked for divine guidance, and, of course, I've done my research by reading parenting articles, talking to the teachers and speaking to other moms.

Things seem to be normalizing, but I intend to keep these conversations and lessons going. Now, instead of looking at the situation with frustration, I am looking at it as an opportunity to teach Alyssa how to be a good friend at a young age. I know these lessons will help her for years to come.

I think a couple of the most helpful things I've done have been communicating with other moms, praying with Alyssa, and bringing the language back down to her level. That's what made me think of the kindergarten poem. I think I was initially trying to help her with a complex adult mind, instead of going back to basics -- back to kindergarten -- back to the simple mind of a child.

A few of my kindergarten tips:
  • Be nice.
  • Cooperate.
  • Share.
  • Don't hit.
  • Don't push.
  • Say you're sorry.
  • Forgive.
My favorite line of the poem is this: When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

I saw Alyssa holding hands with one of her friends today, and it warmed my heart. I know the learning curve has been challenging, but I see them all sticking together.

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