The Importance of ABCs and Socialization in Preschool Learning

preschool kids

Many parents believe that their child gets a good start for kindergarten if they attend Preschool. While this is true, it is important to make sure that your child learns positive type behavior when trying to deal with his peers. Many preschools have started to take notice to this very important aspect since finding out about the recent study results from Penn State University.

The study, run by Penn State and funded by the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies, was interested in finding out how preschool children fare at Preschools that concentrate solely on academic learning, with basic discipline in the classroom setting or Preschools that encourage the children to try positive problem-solving skills alongside their academic learning.

Karen Bierman, a psychology professor from Penn State, divided 44 Head Start classrooms with 350 kids, 4-year-olds, and had half teach a traditional Head Start curriculum and the other half added a program that included special social skills. This included puppets or stories that taught specific problem-solving skills.

A favorite saying emerged from this study with kids saying “Be like Twiggle”. Twiggle the Turtle was used for examples of how to respond to specific situations. When Twiggle pushed his friend after she knocked over his blocks, Twiggle wasn’t allowed to play for a while. But, according to the skills being taught, kids were told that a wise old turtle told Twiggle that when he got upset, he should go inside his shell and take a deep calming breath. Then he should say what bothered him and how it makes him feel … “It really made me mad that you knocked my blocks down.” During the study, kids could be seen standing up, crossing their arms, and talking like the turtle and the other child, in response, would do the same … then they would sit down and play again.

As pointed out by James Griffin, from the NIH’s National Institue of Child Health and Human Development, “Preschools always aim to teach good behavior, but a crowd-control approach … “stop doing that, put that down, don’t pull his hair” … doesn’t help children learn to resolve conflict.”

So, we, as parents, need to keep these thoughts about positive socialization in mind, because if the kids aren’t learning this at Preschool, parents need to try instituting this type of problem-solving at home.

What can Parents do?
According to Professor Bierman, there is some advice parents can follow:

Remember that ages 3 to 7 are a prime time for learning self-control. Talk to youngsters on a daily basis about their feelings and how to work through their problems. What made them sad? What made them happy?

If a child is misbehaving, get the child to take a deep breath and calmly explain his or her feelings. This doesn’t mean giving in to the child. But if you say, “I see that you’re sad but it’s still bedtime,” helps children learn that they can feel upset but still meet obligations.

Parents should learn to calm down too. “It doesn’t help to use your words if you’re just yelling,” Bierman notes.