Observing children is a very fascinating experience. It is not surprised to see how differently children view certain things than adults view them and how differently children act comparing to how adults act. Throughout the observation, I believe, I could have better understanding of mental and social developmental process children. In this paper, I also tried to apply my knowledge such as Piaget, Erickson, Martin Hoffman and etc. that we've covered throughout the course to interacting with children in real world.
[Description of the Observation]
The children were observed in a natural setting in Our Little Haven (OLH) where I volunteered to interact with children. There were several children whose age range 3 to 11 and they are living there because they had bad memory with their parents such as sexual abuse and violence. At the first time, the kids tended to lookout the strangers due to their bad memory with adults. So I tried to act cautiously. I was observing two particular kids. One of them was 4 year old male kid (kid 'A') and the other one was 7 year old female kid (kid 'B'). On Friday, 10/22/2010, I spent almost 4 hours with kid A and on Thursday, 10/28/2010, I spent over 3 hours with kid B. In order to see how kids act differently depending on whom they were interacting with, I was observing kids' behavior and language uses in the case of interaction with other peers, and interaction with teachers or other volunteers. Throughout the observation, it was also a very good opportunity to see different parenting styles because the teachers and other volunteers who work there also take roles of parents for children. I also participated in some activities with kids such as playing video games, origami, making coin purse, drawing and reading a book. When I left OLH on both days, differently from first day I met the kids, both kids seemed more comfortable with me and to want to spend more time with me.
1. Application of knowledge (Erickson, Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey )
According to Erick Erickson's Psychosocial Development theory, the kids were four and six years old and were in preschool. This stage of development according to Erickson works on the concept of initiative versus shame and doubt. The preschooler's main objective is to seek achievement, through a sense of initiative. It is important to promote a sense of initiative by providing age appropriate tasks in this case of observation, drawing, origami and playing games were the parts of age appropriate tasks. However, the kids that I observed were not given many chances to have age appropriate tasks when they wanted to do because every time they wanted to do something, they needed to get permission from authorities such as teachers and volunteers. So, when they wanted to do something rather than they were told to do by authorities, they even asked me to allow them to do what they wanted to do even if I was not an ordinary authority that they usually dealt with. I thought that's what they were trained and educated to do over time by the authorities.
According to the Cognitive theory developed by Piaget, he mentioned that children are born without realizing the reality of environment. That's why he considered development as a process that helped humans relate to their environment. In this idea, children actively create new ideas based on previous experiences or observation. Due to kids' bad memory with their parents, that's why the kids tended to depending themselves from the strangers when I met them first time.
According to Vygotsky, he believed that we learned best in the zone of proximal development. As we studied throughout the course, the zone of proximal development is concept of the difference between what learners, in this observation both kids A and B, can accomplish independently and what they can accomplish with guidance of a more skilled partner, in this observation, teachers and volunteers can be considered as more skilled partner who could give the kids to help and realize the environment by interacting with others. Vygotsky also believed that children were imitating social activity and that social learning was essential to how well a child would advance. For example, when I was playing with kid A, he took my hat from me and tried to imitate how I speak. And, I believe that this is one of the major disagreements between Vygotsky and Piaget because Vygotsky believed that children are developing the knowledge in social relationship or in the interaction with partners, on the other hand, Piaget believed that each child creates their own knowledge.
Like Vygotsky, according to Dewey, he also believed individual could be only a meaningful concept when regarded as an inseparable part of his or her society therefore the children could learn from interacting with peers and interacting with volunteers.
2. Parenting (teaching Style)
In 1978, Dr. Diana Baumrind was the first to define the four parenting styles. She categorized parenting style depending on responsiveness and demandingness. Responsiveness could be defined as warmth. In this case, parents usually accept and support needs of children. Throughout the observation, I believe I was the one who used this type of parenting because after the hearing the story from other volunteers about kid's bad memory, it was very hard for me to say 'no' to kids, so I did almost everything that the kids wanted me to do for them even if they changed their mind so quickly many times. For example, especially, for kid A, he brought me a book to read, so I started reading it but less than every 5 minutes, kid A went around place to place. After brought me a toy from the storage (in this case he needed to get permission from one of other volunteers), he also wanted to do other things in 5 minutes. In this case, I also could be considered as permissive or indulgent parents because I would rather avoid kids' problematic behavior and allow children a great deal of freedom. Moreover, I felt that it was really simple for me to change kids' mind. When I brought some candies from my car to give them to kids, even the kids who looked like uncomfortable with me also came to me and act like I was their friend. According to Baumrind parenting model, educating children with warmth can be a tool to teach right from wrong increase a child's self-esteem, and encourage individualism. In case of other teachers and volunteers, the used limits and expectations to teach respect and provide a sound structure for their child. Differently with me, when they thought that kids were acting in rude, they used to say "no" or "that's not nice" to children. In this case, kids followed what they were told to do. It seemed to me that the reason why kids were doing the right thing was to avoid punishment from the superior power of authorities which were their teachers and other volunteers. This can be considered as preconventional level of moral reasoning.