Jane, I have to agree with Sheila, for two reasons, but I also understand what you are saying - I deeply resented being told what I think and what I was old enough for as a child - little things like reading ahead in a school book or deciding what to wear. I think children get far too little respect and that needs to change.
I work with children - LOTS of children - I teach about 200 new ones each day, during field trips from schools. Usually I teach the history of toys, and in 1/2 hour sessions. I basically sit down with them and ask a lot of questions, which eventually evolves into telling them how things used to be. Then they make a toy. It is the rule in some schools to send an adult for every 4 children. so there are always a lot of adults as well. I wish I could say the adults were all supportive and respectful ( especially of the kids) but every single day, I have to ask adults not to snicker at these children as they tell us about the world they live in - which is often quite different from the one adults live in. 4, 5 and 6 are the ages I see the most. A minority are like you and me - analytical and investigative. Most however, have a great deal of fantasy in their lives, and accept it as the norm. Developmental specialists tell us there are good reasons for this and it is healthy.
At 7 and 8 though, there is a dramatic change. I find that overnight most kids have turned into jaded cynics who no longer care about much besides getting the toy at the end of the session. They tend to parrot things they've heard instead of speaking their true minds. I tend to think this is not natural, but something that our school systems and warehousing kids in day care rather than parenting one on one cause, both directly and indirectly. Once in a while I find kids who have retained their earlier view, but these usually have learned to keep mum.
I tell them to love what they love to do, no matter what anyone tells them, and to relax and enjoy their childhoods. Adults are pushing kids to grow up too fast nowadays and it is up to kids to resist that. I do my best to empower them, because adults have a way of taking childrens power - and self concept - away. I think it is tragic that so many are crushed by the time they are in first grade. It infuriates me when i see a teacher actively do that. Some people go into teaching with a chip on their shoulders and a score to settle, and kids end up being the victims.
I can tell you that a lie to a child this preschool age is a serious thing. This is quite the earnest age, and yet, it is also a very silly age and they make many funny associations that they know are not true, but enjoy the idea of. Unless they have a neurological disorder like Downs or autism, a child from three on will make things up in play and understand absurdities. I remember my son telling my milk allergic daughter that his milk comes from cows and hers comes from rice. She was three. She burst out laughing, and cackled "That's right! My milk is made from rice and yours comes from french fries!"
Kids know the difference between a lie that is literal, which is deceitful, vs fantasy, which is just play. The exception is when there is abuse or war to contend with. Maria Montessorri discovered this blurring of worlds while she was developing her teaching method. She banned fantasy, and Montesorri schools today still do not allow it. What people (including, apparently, the directors of these schools) don't understand is that she had a reason for doing this that no longer exists for the majority of kids. Her first students were survivors of WW1 and their fantasies were very dark. She gave them realism as an escape from their horrors. Most children don't need that now and I've met several who were traumatized by Montessorri schools because that part of their childhood was truncated.
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