Despite what most people imagine, even though we are not providing direct services to children, summer in the HCC Office is a busy time. Parents are in and out to register and to complete paperwork, and they often have one or more of their children in tow. Keeping those children happy and engaged while mom or dad fills out forms can be challenging but fun for the office staff.
The other day, as parent Kate Wolschina completed forms, I dispensed Play Doh and other goodies to her children, Kate and Dane Samartino. Dane made a rhyme as his mother showed us a tomato she had stashed in her purse (that’s another story!). He kept saying “Play Doh and the Tomato.” I immediately responded that it sounded like the title of a story, and challenged Dane to write it. i promised him that I would publish it on our HCC website if he sent it to me.
Imagine how thrilled I was about 24 hours later when I received Dane’s story! Both his mother and I were delighted that his creativity had been ignited, and that he had followed through on my challenge.
The story he wrote is pictured here. It is adorable, and sends a wonderful message on SO many levels! Note that “”Play Doh” has become “Plato!”
First, on the most obvious level, Dana is sharing a terrific message about responding to conflict by using carefully chosen words, rather than fighting. In a time when we are all so conscious about bullying prevention, high levels of aggression among students, and building strong character in children at an early age, Dane has clearly gotten the message about the power of words. For that, as well as his creativity, I applaud him … and kudos to mom, too!
But I am sharing his story not just because he wrote a beautiful message. I am also sharing it to point out how EASY it is to inspire children to be thoughtful and creative if we just seize the opportunity. I have written before about the importance of “teachable moments,” and this is another example of just such a moment. We could could have just joked with Dane about the rhyme, and left it at that. But by showing him I had confidence in his abilities, and giving him a reason to demonstrate them, he clearly felt confident enough to take up the task and run with it.
As part of their research identifying the forty devleopmental assets critical to helping children grow up emotionally healthy and strong, Chicago’s Search Intsitute has found that having adults in the community other than their parents who show an interest in them is vital to that healthy development. All of us at Haddonfield Child Care take that role seriously, and keep it in mind whenever and whereever we interact with children and youth.
Dane may or may not be a budding writer. He may or may not consciously remember this particular story being “published.” But I guarantee that somewhere his brain has tucked away the fact that an adult cared enough to challenge him, and also kept her word to reward his hard work if he followed through. Those kinds of interactions, conscious or unconscious, are the building blocks of confidence, good character, and success.
I urge everyone to commit to giving children a chance to feel confident enough to take a risk to explore their talents, secure in the knowledge that the adults around them in the community can be trusted, and will support and encourage their efforts. Little things can make a big difference in the aggregate. Small moments of encouragement and support given to children regularly and by a variety of people they encounter can add up to confidence and success in adulthood.