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Be on a child's level

Two years ago, I was a graduate assistant in the Child Development Laboratory at EIU and was lucky enough to work with incredible children, talented students, and passionate instructors and professors there. One of the greatest lessons I learned from my time at the Lab was to get down on the child's level. It's not something that comes instinctively to adults. It's something we have to work hard at doing, to remember, to get down on their level and to communicate. So often, we find ourselves looking down at children and interacting from a five foot height difference. Mostly, adults are looking at the tops of heads as they survey the scene in front of them. There are many disadvantages to this type of interaction, one being the missed the chance to see what the child sees from his or her perspective. Getting down to the child's level involves gaining respect, an equality, a meeting of the minds if you will. How can we begin to think that looking down at children facilitates an interaction? How can we expect to learn from our children or to exchange ideas with such differences in viewpoint?

One of the first things you will notice about me now is that as soon as a child enters the room, I am down to their level. I see what they see. Understanding each other is fostered simply by moving down or up to their level. There are those who might say that the height advantage conveys a feeling of authority to the children. I say authority comes from within not at a particular magical height. My goal lies more in developing bonds and establishing trust.

Today's tip: Get down--no I'm not referring to any dance moves here--literally get down to the child's level. Make a connection that you might have missed before with this child. Practice this--it may seem counter intuitive and awkward at first. In order to feel this inequality, why not try sitting on the floor as another adult talks down to you in a conversation--see how connected you feel, how included you feel in the conversation while looking up at the other person. Trust me, it works


Both of these terms mean little to nothing in the grand scheme of things.