Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is structure so scary?

Over the past few weeks Zachary and I have been going to Toddler Time at the local library.  They do stories and songs.  It's fun and Zachary is fascinated by the other kids.  Toddlers are active little people so you never know what will happen, but lately it has felt more chaotic than usual.  I have been doing some observing to try and figure out why this is.   Most parents sit with their children on the floor and participate with them in the songs and stories.  There are some parents who sit back and watch their child as they roam around the room.  I think that is fine.  But what happens when a child stands in front of the teacher and grabs at her things when she is trying to lead the lesson?  What would you do?  My initial instinct would be to gently pick up my child, take him back to our area on the carpet and encourage him to watch and listen to what the teacher is doing.   Lately, I have been observing more parents letting their children roam without direction, even if they are up front getting into things.  This is where the chaos seems to build.  More kids gather around the teacher and it becomes difficult for the lesson to continue.  Those of us who are sitting, trying to listen and participate are left watching the struggle.  I admit it, I became frustrated and finally picked up Zachary and left.
The other day we went to another Toddler Time at a different library.  It was mostly music.  The teacher told the adults to let their children do whatever they wanted as long as they were safe.  If that meant running around the room, that was fine.  She asked that we stay with her and continue doing the activities so our children will see us as we model for them. Now don't get me wrong, I am all about letting kids explore and learn at their own pace, but shouldn't we as parents help guide our children in that learning?  As I watched some children run around the room it didn't seem to me that they cared at all about what mom, dad or grandma was doing.  They were wild and free while other children were trying to sing along over the chaos.  Sometimes I wonder if we are so afraid to "squelch" our child's individuality that we let go of structure and the opportunity to teach them skills they will need for their future.
There are definitely times and places to allow our kids to run, shout and be plain silly, but then there are times to help our children learn to be still, participate and listen.  After all, they have never been in this world before.  They look to us to be their primary guide and teacher.  I do know that when they go off to preschool or Kindergarten there will be quiet times and story times where they won't be allowed to run around and do what they want. Wouldn't it be helpful for us to begin building that structure into their lives at an early age?  I think so.
Thanks for reading as I process "out loud".  I welcome your thoughts too!  Blessings to you and your little one(s)!


  1. Not only helpful but imperative. It's about boundaries and the recent pop-psychologists would like us to believe that our children will be harmed by saying No!. The "experts" are finally starting to swing the other direction to a certain extent. In my kids generation the buzz was "That is not ok" spoken softly. I figured it out pretty fast that it does not work. Just wait until elementary school when your child space is being bombarded by some child who has no delineation of boundaries. Think it is stressful now? It is our responsibility as parents to define the rules and boundaries because it may be cute when they are one or two, but later on it is annoying and harmful. It does a child a disservice to not teach them how respect others in the world. Just for a fun exercise, visit a local soccer field where the elementary school age kids are playing a game and then you tell me where these kids get their modeling from. It's pretty amazing to watch and listen to. They are listening to and watching everything you do even though it may not seem like it. Statistically speaking our kids are in crisis because of this phenomenon of lack of boundaries. Welcome aboard. Children do teach us much.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more! Without structure there is disorder. A room full of toddlers without structure in it should be a negative experience for all the adult. If not, then most likely the parent lacks structure in his or her life. But most importantly, the damaging affects it can cause to the toddler. (frustration, anger, impatiences, emotional problems) just to name a few. Toddlers without structure in their lives will be a problem child in future. And the sad part of it all, it's not the child's fault.

  3. I agree with you completely ! There is a time and place for children to run and have fun but they also need structure at such an early age. I would have done the same thing you did - but unfortunately as sad as it is some parents really don't care about structure with their children. It upsets me because it feels like they take them to these types of places so they don't have to truly "spend" time with them but to just let them run loose all over the place. I believe all children need guidance and a model be it from mom, dad, gramma or a teacher to show them right from wrong. Also without guidance as they get older they will end up the disruptive children in school who honestly do not know any better because they were never taught any better. LOVE YOU CUZ !!!