Aldersgate Preschool

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Ms. Gerry knew it: children say the darndest things


We all know it.  Kids say the “darndest” things.  A few stories about Ms. Gerry are told often around here.  Ms. Gerry Cady was an older teacher and then later a volunteer here several years ago.  Our garden area on the large playground is there in her memory.  We remember her sweet spirit.  We remember how she interacted with children recognizing their intent in everything they did and said.  For example:

While sitting on Ms. Gerry’s lap, gazing up at her a child said,

“You have skin like an elephant.”  

She knew in her soul that these words did not have the negative connotation that adults would attribute to it.  She warmly replied, “I know, Sweetie, I worked hard to get it to look like this.”

Another child, talking to Ms. Gerry, said, “You must be older than God.”

Gerry simply smiled and said, “Sometimes I feel like it too.”

These are only two of what I am sure were many of such incidents with Gerry and the children.  I often stop and remind myself of this as children have said things to me that otherwise might have had a sting.  I have heard:

“Your belly is super soft.”

“You have boogers in your nose.”

“My mommy has a baby in her tummy.  You do too.”

“You look like a man.”

I’m sure there were many more statements similar to these.  I took them for what they were.  A child was describing things using their limited frame of knowledge.  A child is trying to make sense of his or her world.  That is what I took away from this.  I replied with something like, “I know.  Everyone’s tummy feels different, some are round and soft and some are flat.”  “No, Honey, I don’t have a baby.  I just have extra cushion in there.”  “Oh, thanks for noticing.  I must need a tissue.”  “Why do you say that?   Is it because I have short hair and you see that men have short hair?  Some women have long hair and some have short hair.”  (I will admit, I did go home and take a long hard look at what I was wearing the day she mistook my belly as baby weight.  Ha ha)

I enjoy the days several teachers linger in the office at the end of the day.  We often get to talking about the kids, how we can help them, and how the adult world sometimes perceives them through adult lenses.  I loved the comment Ms. Lori made the other day.  “Preschoolers say things as an observation rather than a judgement.”  Let me repeat that and bold it  – it’s a good one to remember.

Preschoolers say things as an observation rather than a judgement.

It is easy to become embarrassed or shocked by things kids say – especially in public.  Our indignant response may inadvertently have the child feeling confused, anxious or even guilty.  If you calmly refelct on their intent, it is much easier to reply with a clarification rather than a flustered admonition.

In a store I overhead a child talking to another customer saying, “Why is your skin brown?”  The mother got a little flustered and I hope she didn’t mind me jumping in to say, “Yes, God made people in lots of different colors.  Look my skin is pinker than yours.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m don’t always have the right comeback.  Sometimes my own mood results in a less than stellar response.  It happens.

This kind of thing also happens between children.  The other day, during the hubbub of arrival, a child with a big smile on his face  said to another, “You have curly hair.”  The child on the receiving end didn’t seem to take that as a compliment.  I gathered the two together, got the second child to admit she felt bad about the comment.  I asked the first child, “Did you mean to make fun of her curly hair?”  “NO.”  he said, “She just has curly hair.”  I clarified this with, “It is different than yours and you noticed it.” Afterward, both children went happily on their way.

I’ll finish by saying it one more time.

Preschoolers say things as an observation rather than a judgement.

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There are no bullies at preschool

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8   

Jesus died for us.  Even though we didn’t do what we “should” do.  God knew it was what we ultimately needed.

Doing something for someone for what they need instead of what they deserve, that’s a tricky expectation. It is a hard (even impossible) example to follow all the time.  However, as teachers and parents we need to keep this example close to our hearts.

We often face behaviors that feel intentionally defiant or hurtful.  Sometimes we face those same behaviors multiple time a day  hour.  It is easy to become frustrated or overwhelmed.  It is easy to react without taking time to understand what the child is truly crying out for.

Becky Bailey, the author of Conscious Discipline, poses the idea that children (actually she include adults too) are all acting with behaviors that have a positive goal- even oppositional behaviors.  This idea is one of the 7 basic skills in the Conscious Discipline program.  You can read more about her ideas by clicking the photo.


Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, a well-known psychologist and educator, researched the “whys” of children’s misbehavior. His work promotes the idea that students misbehave to achieve self-serving goals. These usually include: getting attention, seeking power, taking revenge and avoiding failure.  (Advantage press newsletter)

He decided to study how adults’ reactions affect behaviors.  I found these interesting.

“No matter what the reason is for a student’s misbehavior, we are forced to respond. Some responses produce better results than others. Below is a list of .. positive …. responses by educators.”

Responses that tend to get positive results include:

  1. Describing the unacceptable behavior to the student
  2. Pointing out how his behavior negatively impacts him and others
  3. Talking with the students about what could have been a better behavior choice and why
  4. Asking the student to write a goal that will help him improve his actions
  5. Showing confidence in the student that his behavior goals are achievable
  6. Positively reinforcing behavior that relates to student goals

Notice these all give instructional, positive consequences rather than punitive.

Hitting is a negative behavior we often see at preschool.  As adults we may want to attach adult motives or labels: He’s a bully. Why is he being so mean?  However, we strongly believe there are no bullies at preschool.  

There are many underlying reasons a child may hit.  Young children are just trying to make sense of the world and how they should react to it.  As Ms. Leslie said, “Their motives are pure.”  As teachers (and parents) we need to take time to understand their motives and what the child truly needs (rather than evaluate only what his behavior deserves.)  Some options may be:

  • Trying to play with another child (and believe me this happens often); children are just learning how to interact with others – We need to give the child words to ask to play.  We also need to give the “victim” the words to say he or she doesn’t like that
  • Wanting a toy or turn – We need to, again, give the child the words to use. We may also give alternative options.  Perhaps later we do some pretend play acting out someone asking for a toy
  • Feeling frustrated – We need to give the child comfort, acceptance and a chance to calm their emotions.  This is a time we would use a calming technique.  You can read about those here:


  • Acting out a superhero scene – We need to give the child an appropriate time (outside) and way to do this (you pretend by hitting the air only.)
  • Feeling overwhelmed and out of control – We need to give this child time and space (the safe place) to gather composure.  Sometimes this means the child takes a walk with a teacher or myself as we talk and try to help the child understand his or her emotions and better ways to handle them.

 As you can see, there are many reasons a child may hit or act out.  If we respond to them all with the same punitive reaction such as a time-out we are most likely not giving the child what he or she truly needs.  I challenge both you and myself to take the time to look past what we might feel a child deserves and give each child what he needs.


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“I Cutta Da Hair”

Awhile ago I remember chuckling as I read a facebook post written by a mother with young children.  She gave me permission to share her story on this blog.  Perhaps you can relate.

Last night Jenna acted shocked about her brother’s new haircut and even though she was given the “you have the opportunity to tell the truth now and not get in trouble”, she still vehemently denied cutting it. The subject was dropped and we decided that although we thought it was unlikely that Wes could cut his own hair, especially on the top, we would do an experiment in the morning. So this morning, I handed him a pair of child scissors. He promptly started slicing just above his head and proudly smiled and shouted “l cutta da hair!”



I told this story to our teachers and they all began sharing similar stories of either their own children or children from previous classes that also joined the “I cutta da hair” club.  It seems to almost be a right of passage.  Most children will do this at some time.  I remember having my kindergarten picture taken with bangs that had a large chunk cut out of the middle.

One teacher shared photos of her daughter’s hair cutting prowess.

Meg mullet New haircut

This sweet girl really did a good job.  She managed to cut pretty far in the back of her hair.  Hmmm, now she is a sweetheart sporting a cute SHORT haircut.

So, why  would I write about this?  I write so that when it happens in your house (and it will) or when it happens in class (hopefully not but we can’t guarantee anything) you will know – it’s something kids do.  Yes, children need to know that scissors are for cutting paper.  And yes, a logical consequence may be to have the scissors only available with adult supervision for a while.  But ultimately, it’s just hair.  It grows back.  And it provides a funny story for years to come.