I carried my son to his very first class of painted rhino. A mother I met randomly from Belmont library suggested the course to me, and I wanted to check it out. As we stepped into the entrance of the classroom, I see about ten girls, all at age around 9 to 10 years old, and no younger children. As I was puzzled, one of the instructors came to me and told me that the class for painted rhino was canceled today. Apparently, I am the 4th parent that showed up for the painted rhino class.
The instructor told me they have a dance camp class for those girls today. And those girls are very active. She suggested me not to let my son into the classroom as she doesn't want him to be hurt. I agreed and wanted to grab my son to leave the classroom.
And there I was, with my son, his left hand held firmly with my right index finger. I felt a clear message that he wanted to stay and watch. He was holding my hands with determination. His eyes were on those girls. He didn’t move, didn’t look at me, or didn’t even try to make a word. But I sensed his will, and it was strong, that he wanted to stay.
I then chose not to move as well. I calculated quickly in my mind. There are about five steps where my son was standing from those girls. If he made a move towards them, I have four steps to catch him before he can bump into someone. There the music started, and the girls started the free dance.
At times the instructor stopped the music, and the girls needed to halt their movements. Those stopped too late would get caught and called out of the group, and the music got turned back on again. I admired the creativity of the free dance. All the girls had their favorite styles, yet their movements were so smooth and beautiful to watch. Sometimes the music is soft, and the girls moved slowly with their whole bodies extended. Sometimes the music is rhythmic, and the girls started to dance with very fast locomotion of their shoulders, legs, or hands.
It was about 20 minutes past. There I was with my son, with his hands still holding my index finger, not even made a move. During the last song, I saw his knee started to resonate with the music. I was surprised that he could be so focused that he kept his posture for such a long time, his strength holding my hand didn't change. He was just there, watch and be.
As the girls were lined up for the next activity, he suddenly made a move and turned to the entrance. I came done to his eye level and ask if he wanted to go out now, and he nodded. Then I picked him up and went out of the classroom. I was amazed at his ability to focus on something, and I felt a strange type of energy. He didn’t have a big smile on his face. But it was a rather a deep sense of satisfaction and his face is peaceful with serenity.
People asked me how to active listen to preverbal children at times. It may seem hard, but it might be the easiest thing to do. Young children (0 to 6 years old) has inner needs that fit their own development. They unconsciously know. Dr. Montessori names that inner urge or needs to learn particular things sensitive periods. Young children, especially before 4 or 5, do not have the mindset to make you mad intentionally. When they seem have misbehaviors, they mostly have a need that they must satisfy for their development, either it is a physical need like hunger or a mental need that they need to build up their cognitively through touching the dirt and make their hands dirty.
Active listen to young children is not active listen to their words, but listen to their needs. You are the expert of your own child, and you can sense the needs of your child if you can change your perspective. You will be amazed by your true child.