This post was originally shared at http://www.wnybehaviortoolbox.com on August 2, 2017.
There’s a small path in Burchfield Park, where children write wishes on paper butterflies and hang them from the trees.
As you might expect, there are wishes for candy, for toys, and for other treats. Scattered among those, you’ll find quite few wishes that are less practical, but more magical — wishes for unicorns, or for wings, or my personal favorite, “for 1000 dogs.” You’re guaranteed to smile, likely with appreciation for the simple pleasures of childhood.
Your heart will break a little though, if you look a little closer. Tangled within the leaves, there are a few wishes that will take your breath away — “that my mom, my dad and me could live a great life all together” or “for my dad not to do drugs.”
I walked away with tears in my eyes and intended to share these pictures on my personal Facebook page, simply as a reminder to be kind because you never know someone else’s struggle. When I thought more about it, I wanted to share it here, too, because the professional implications can’t be overlooked.
The children in our early childhood classrooms may not necessarily be able write these wishes, or even to articulate them — but they may be living them nonetheless. Their hearts may be heavy, their minds might be anxious, and their futures may be uncertain.
I sincerely hope that your students’ wishes are filled with unicorns and candy. I also hope you’ll remember the wishes that might be unspoken — to feel safe, to feel welcome, and to know that you are loved. Not-so-surprisingly, those wishes often look like “challenging behaviors.”
You may not be able to change the realities of a child’s home life, but you DO have the capacity to wrap them in empathy and kindness, in every moment that you spend together.
“Behavior management” can (and should) look a lot like love.