Compassionate interventions for children
You may have read or heard that, as an early childhood educator, your interventions must be compassionate. This is far from being a new concept. Nonetheless, it’s one that I am interested in applying since it involves kindness and positivity. This concept also applies to parents. You may however be left wondering which principles it involves. What positive impacts are associated with compassionate interventions? Why should we follow this route? Compassionate interventions and positive discipline have a lot in common. Even if certain characteristics can differ, these concepts are intertwined.
I try to apply compassionate interventions at home, with my own children. Because I have seen interesting results, I am continuously trying to learn more about this concept. My research has led me to discover new aspects of this approach. Since these aspects can easily be used by early childhood educators, I decided to target the five fundamental principles of compassionate interventions. Of course, there are many others, but for now, let’s focus on the most important ones, the ones that make the most sense to me.
First, let’s try to define this approach. Compassionate interventions foster listening and respect children’s needs. They are based on respecting children’s integrity and empathy. This approach helps children develop self-confidence, talk about their emotions, communicate respectfully, and recognize the feelings of others. Compassionate interventions involve calmness, gentleness, understanding, and acceptance. As previously mentioned, there are many underlying principles, but for now, I want to focus on the five (5) most important ones, the ones that will make it possible for you to build a solid foundation.
Creating a calm environment
A pared down and calm environment will help you maintain a relaxed atmosphere. Of course, a relaxed environment can have a huge impact on children and adults. Clean your daycare and purge your toy chests and bins as well as your shelves. Be sure to integrate periods of silence, quiet play, solitary play, and free play each day. Alternate these periods with periods of active play to provide a balanced rhythm that is healthy for all.
See the unfulfilled needs hiding behind bad behavior
Unpleasant behavior always hides an unfulfilled need. Whenever you face an agitated child or a child who is disturbing others, stop to think. Try to identify the unfulfilled need that has caused a child to behave in such a way. A child who has a tantrum or is disorganized needs to be comforted. He may, for example, need to be held. Simply fulfilling children’s needs may help you manage your group more efficiently. Of course, doing so will also help you develop a strong relationship with the children in your group. They will know that they can count on you, that you are there for them.
Guide children instead of correcting them
Guiding children involves accompanying them throughout different learning processes, respecting them, and listening to them. It also involves helping them understand what is and isn’t allowed. Interventions are still necessary, but they must be respectful. Compassionate interventions require “acting” not “reacting”. For this reason, it is best to be prepared and know ahead of time exactly how you will respond to different situations.
Be humble, children can teach you a lot
As adults, we guide children through a wide range of experiences, but they can teach us a lot too. Of course, we must be open to evolving. Each situation and each child is there to help us grow and push us to adapt. As an adult, are your expectations realistic? Do they consider children’s developmental stages and capacities? See children as they are today, in the present moment, and accompany them accordingly.
Welcome children’s emotions, but remember they are not yours
Children will experience a wide range of emotions. They are their emotions. If you can remain calm when you face the chaos of a child’s tantrum, you will exude great strength. As you know, children are learning to manage their emotions and situations that are out of their control can provoke disorganized behavior. When this happens, accompany them, be understanding, but detach yourself from their emotions. This will help children feel supported.
So, after reading the five (5) main principles of compassionate interventions, what do you think? I am sure they will help you begin to apply this approach that truly can be beneficial for all.
Maude Dubé, specialized educator