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9. Hidden Messages Behind Popular Children’s Stories

x4kaajg0tmu-aaron-burdenI read the story The Gingerbread Man to children. This is a holiday book that is read during the Christmas season. 

Basically, a grandmother was hungry, made some cookies, and when she took the cookies out of the oven, a gingerbread man pops out and runs away because he doesn’t want to be eaten. The entire story is all about the gingerbread man running away from children and animals until he ”befriends” a fox by a lake. The fox cunningly invites the Gingerbread man on his back so he can take him across the lake. The Gingerbread, innocent and obviously gullible, goes on the fox’s back and gives in to the fox’s lies until he is eventually eaten.

The children find this story funny – but I found elements in this children’s book that were a disturbing:

–> First point: the Gingerbread – (yes – magically ) birthed into a living being, experiences his first moments of life in hostility where despite the Gingerbread Man wanting to live (ie: ”don’t eat me!”) people refuse his request and run after him – wanting to eat him  when the Gingerbread Man wanted to live.

–> Second point: that the Gingerbread man’s death is due to the cunning and sly deception of the fox – who at first seemed trustworthy in wanting to help the Gingerbread Man, but ended up at the last moment eating him – and in the illustration, the Gingerbread Man’s face is in fear. 

Yes it is a story – but if you look behind the words and pretty pictures, it’s really a screwed up story that makes death and deception something entertaining for the kids. The being (Gingerbread man) came into the world with the intention to live yet was immediately threatened because everyone wanted to eat him, instead of being born into a world where individuals (humans and animals) welcome and nurture him.  

Similar elements are found in real life – like a child being born in a war-torn country, or an abusive household, –once the baby born, they are threatened with real-life problems. 

So, how can a story like The Gingerbread Man be an appropriate story for the Holidays, especially Christmas – which is known as the season of ”giving” and celebrating life (of Christ)? I understand some may react to my words, and find the book funny and entertaining, but I’m the type of person who likes to look beyond the words to see what is really behind it all, and if these words/meanings support our children’s development.

I suggest we as parents/teachers/adults start analyzing the meanings behind the stories we share with our children – those ”hidden messages” we tend to overlook and see how we can instead teach and show how to support each other and life, so that we raise our children within the foundations of supporting life for all.

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5. From Reacting to Understanding

children montessori reacting to understanding helping them fufill a needI had for a long time reacted to 4 year old V for his behavior and difficulty listening to teachers and children. He is different in that he cannot connect easily with the school materials and/or with other children by socializing.

What started happening was V began to give a lot of physical contact to the teachers and children, where he would randomly go up to a children and try to kiss them on the cheek, lips, or arm. Children would react to this, yelling or hitting him to go away, and so we as teachers started to teach V about space and asking before kissing children. This helped to an extent but then V continued with the physical attention without asking.

One day I looked deeper at the point, looking at human needs, and what this child’s behavior is showing me about needs he wants fulfilled. I saw V needed personal attention and physical touch as groundedness, which was what he was trying to do for himself by kissing and touching children, but it was bringing consequence to him.

Sunette from EQAFE.com showed me how V is an emotionally oriented child and does require personal attention because it is what he needs and by me supporting this need will support him with less consequences. One example to support him is sitting with him and reading a book for example, where we act out certain parts from the book (the character jumps so we physically jump) — making the together time a physical activity thing supporting him to stay grounded in the physical (so it’s not just all mental like reading and looking at pictures) but combining the mental, physical and potential education for him.

By supporting V to fulfill his need of attention, this can assist him to settle down within himself and not need so much attention from others, which then lessens consequences. Then additionally V now can move on to fulfill another need that will support him in reaching his utmost potential the more he develops/walks in life.

So for me, I have been shifting my focus to reacting to V to observing V — asking myself what does he NEED, what is his (problematic) behavior showing me that I can support himself with?

I got to apply this point of supporting him when V started to cause conflict between two boys. He kept poking them and being in their space when they were telling him to stop and go away. I used the opportunity to invite V to help me with laundry, since all the other children were busy. V came with me, and I showed him how the dryer works, and had him participate with me in taking the lint off of the lint catcher and putting clothes in the dryer.  We talked and I made sure he was engaged in the task. Once we were finished we went upstairs to look for something, then eventually we went back downstairs where V was more calmer and went to join children drawing.

So, this was a cool point to realize for myself, to shift focus from reacting to understanding – asking myself what does this child need, how can I support him…and find ways to get the child involved mentally and physically by fulfilling his need.  If we as adults practice and apply this consistently for our children, we support them in developing their self-stability, talents and self-awareness.

Thanks for reading.