Sam is playing with his blocks and dinosaurs. Jonny comes to takes over Sam’s toys. Sam complains, “Stop! Leave my things alone.” Jonny continues moving wooden and plastic figures, disturbing Sam’s construction. Sam whimpers protests. The nursery school teacher tells Jonny to respect Sam’s creation. Jonny responds, “I’m just playing. Sam asked me to come play with him.” Sam winces as Jonny shifts blocks and toys into a new configuration. The teacher sees that Jonny is invading upon Sam’s creative endeavor, but doesn’t know how to fashion justice in the situation. Finally the teacher says, “Sam, do you want Jonny to play with you and change what you’ve been building?” After his design has now been totally altered, Sam says, “Yes I want Jonny to play with me.” Frustrated by his inability to control the situation earlier, the teacher says, “Jonny you have a time out in the corner where no one can play with you!”
The preschool scenario can be compared to what is happening on a worldwide level with powerful leaders. What we are not taught in early childhood, can be our failure throughout life until the developmental component is finally learned. “The preschool years are foundational. Later, as your six-year-old struggles, your 12-year-old struggles, you go back to the toddler issues,” explains Tovah Klein, Barnard College early childhood education professor and author of How Toddlers Thrive. As an expert in early childhood development, Klein guides parents and educators by understanding the correlation between the early fundamentals and characteristics in later years that build upon the toddler base.
Klein emphasizes “seeing through a toddlers eyes” so as to understand how to help a child make sense of the world and thrive. Seeing from a simple child’s perspective in the above story of Sam and Jonny, Sam experiences the world as intrusive and controlling, while Jonny feels boundlessly entitled. Additionally, Jonny learns that he can take over until the conquered says, “I want you here.” Then he is isolated. Children construct schemes of how the world functions around early experiences. Behavior, at the ages of six, 12, 22, 42 and 60, comes from the foundation laid in the early childhood and can be improved in later years through re-education (often in the form of self-help, coaching and therapy). The botched behaviors of international leaders reveal that some early cognitive processes may not have fully developed.
“When we get to adulthood we pretend that preschool doesn’t have anything to do with life,” clarifies Carla Woolf, cognitologist and author of Connecting the Dots: The Cognitively Correct Way to Speak with Preschoolers.” Woolf emphasizes that the terminology and construct of language build the way that we think, and therefore act. For example, children do not think in negatives such as, “Don’t touch that vase.” In a child’s mind they hear, “Touch vase,” as an idea that they may not have had before. The image in the mind churns through a child’s natural curiosity and experimental behavior, which could result in a broken vase. The adult mind acts the same way to negations. “Don’t think of a pink elephant,” conjures pictures of pink elephants. The difference between children and adults is that the mature brain can use higher levels of logic in making choices. The adults who fail to develop aspects, such as impulse control and higher reasoning, fall short of playing fairly in the grown-up world.
We think of early childhood education specialists, such as Klein and Woolf, as having the simple function of guiding us in how to work well with children in their early years. In actuality, these experts navigate humanity through conveying vital understanding of how people function from the core.
Since the adults that run the world have toddlerhood as their foundation, paying more attention to how we form children in the earliest years and giving greater value to preschool learning improves our chances of creating greater harmony in the world. “Adults tend to think of our ‘higher intelligence’ skills as intellectual, but more realistically, our adult aptitude consists of our capacity to make reasonable decisions about our feelings, abilities, and desires. We tend to think of these as separate functions when they are more overlapping and intertwined than we realize,” Woolf explains. Logic is a combination of how we have learned to construct the world based on practical learning and our current perceptions, feelings and wants.
With United Nations goals of universal primary education and New York City proposing universal preschool, diplomats and politicians give some recognition to early childhood development as being a part of what make success in the world’s state of affairs. More than ever, we need to get direction from early childhood professionals. Through their guidance, we can bring well-balanced citizens into the world.
Within cultural differences are fundamental reasoning abilities that allow humans to function well with each other. Probably the best summary of these basics is laid out in Robert Fulghum’s poem, “All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten.” From poet to early childhood professional, human wisdom says, “Get the basics right.”
Placing emphasis on how we raise our children early on will help society overall when we choose our leaders, determine our policies and relate to one another.