Micromanaging Children’s Play

“Micromanagement goes against natural development,” says clinical psychologist and author Marc Nemiroff, PhD. “It takes away the child’s experience and [impedes] his learning how to handle himself in the world. Part of the job of the parent is not to do everything for the child, but to help him do things more and more independently.”

As parents and teachers we dream that all children will be able to play nicely with each other.  As parents and teachers we also know that not all dreams come true.  Many children are faced with handling their own small problems for the first time once they enter Kindergarten.  Fighting over toys, friends, environment etc. is pretty normal for Kindergartners.  5 and 6 year olds are coming to the Kindergarten classroom from environments (home, preschool, and daycare) that solved most of their problems for them. Young children are accustomed to going to the adult in charge when there is a problem, expect it to be fixed immediately and have never learned to work it out themselves.  My job as the Kindergarten teacher is to teach these children how to handle small problems on their own.  Naturally if a child is sick or bleeding or safety is an issue, we teachers will jump right in, however, if there is no blood, sickness, or safety concerns then we step back and watch.  This is not easy as these young children do not know how to solve problems so we have to teach and review this skill often many times a day. Parents and adult caregivers could help in this process by allowing young children to try and figure out a solution on their own.  We can be arbitrators for the children but not the solutions solvers.

“One of the telltale signs of micromanagement,” Nemiroff says, “is during a play date when the parent steps in immediately” at the first sign of conflict. “The danger is the child doesn’t learn to be on his own in the world, to manage the conflicts that may arise.”

If you are tempted to step in an micromanage, ask yourself why?  Our aim is the help the children become more independent in the ability to develop essentaial like skills, like problem solving.


1 Comment

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One response to “Micromanaging Children’s Play

  1. mary louise obrien

    Claire, the children do learn so much as they learn to problem solve by themselves. This can be over a game they are playing or during a social situation. I think so many people feel it is easier to step in. You do stress that unless there is a safety/healthy issue, a teacher can watch nearby and then use that situation as a teaching moment for later that day.
    Keep the great ideas coming. So many children will benefit from at least one of your ideas and be more comfortable entering K this Aug.
    As a fourth and sixth grade teacher, using group work to solve some situations, academic and social, I appreciated it when so many children came with many of these skills learnt. It is a concern that stays with them for life. so the earlier the children learn to work with others, makes life much easier.

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