Observing Children: Attention Issues? Overly-Excited? Probably Just Surviving

MOVE Academy Bambini Parkour class for pre-school kids

Observing Children: Attention Issues? Overly-Excited? Probably Just Surviving

This is a reflection by coach Shie Boon about pre-school children’s behaviour after years of reading, observation and experimentation. He now leads the Bambini program in MOVE Academy Singapore.

Context: The Bambini parents were having a short debate about whether briefings are necessary in class.

(Featured Image Photo Credit: Tahiti Dance Fitness Korea )

Making sense of the environment

Put adults in an absolutely alien environment, say a jungle, a cave, or the harsh poles, and I imagine they’ll become ‘kids’ again. It’s a state where we rely on ALL our senses to gain stability (mental and physical safety) as fast as possible. For sanity and survival, we need experiential information, and silence, to draw patterns out of the information collective.

Predictability of environment and resources becomes a sense of stability. Adults have typically gained their sense of stability from decades of experience categorising the physical world. On the other hand, a child has yet to gain this sense of stability in a fairly alien world. This explains their constant observing, sensing and organising of stimuli through effortful attention.

With limited vocabulary, children rely on other senses at their immediate disposal to convey a message or gain vital information. Whereas a fluent adult spends more effort in organising metaphysical patterns after mastering their immediate physical environment.

Seeing by verbalising

It is normal to project the matured ideal of verbally organising the metaphysical unto a child’s journey of growth. However, it is crucial to be capable of sensing and attending to a mutual participation in information gathering via verbalisation, whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Yet words are only one form of information. The fruitfulness of discussion lies only as far as when participants are motivated to rely heavily on verbalisation to understand a problem.

It is deeply human to want to be metaphysically ‘seen’. If I fail to sense willing participation from a child and yet speak my mind, it will be sending a message that they are not ‘seen’, which likely discourages their future participation.

Yet, of course, with a baby, a pet or a foreigner with no native vocabulary, we speak our mind but focus on conveying our message through other ways such as touch and body language. Likewise, we read the non-verbal clues of participation, and somehow trust that it will form natural connections, cause role-modelling, and non-verbal communication will be as effective as verbal.

Problem-solving with children

I try, therefore, to sense where effortless and effortful attention is being placed within the chaos that goes on within the human perception, and what problems the children are trying to solve with the abilities they believe they possess.

If I sense that they have chosen me to be a viable temporary path towards their solution, I try to role-model myself for them to solve the problem more effectively if they face it again.