Teaching Children to be Flexible

“One of the chief concerns (and complaints) from parents I work with is that their children are super rigid and irrational.” 

Claire Lerner of Lerner Child Development

Educators are all too familiar with classroom scenarios that include some children crying or melting down because things are not going quite their way.  Children can become upset over the littlest things or so it seems that way to the adults around them.  When children become upset because they cannot sit next to the friend they sit next to every day or that the crust is not cut off of their sandwich as it usually is or that they do not want to wear the only jacket available to wear, what can caring adults do?

Well, the first thing that we can do is listen and try to understand how the child is feeling.  Some children are flexible by nature and others are not.  Although it is difficult to expect a child with a more rigid nature to go with the flow, adults and educators can help them to become somewhat more flexible by the kinds of things that they expose the children to.

Flexibility is so important in being able to navigate life and handle all of its many challenges.  As parents and educators we can provide daily opportunities for children to practice flexibility.  Consider the following:

  1. A teacher can move classroom seating around so children sit next to a new friend periodically.
  2. Parents can introduce different foods into their children’s lunches so that they have new food experiences. 
  3. When adults make changes in a child’s routine or schedule it can be pointed out to the child in a way that helps them to understand that things change and that’s o.k.

Adults can model flexibility for children.  When you take your child to the doctor and the doctor is running behind schedule which makes you late for work, your reaction to this chain of events teaches your child something.  What do you model for them?  Do you model patience and understanding or are you irritated and unable to wait?  If caring adults model flexibility for children, they can see it put to practice and they in turn can practice it too.  Comment on your child’s flexibility “You were so flexible and cooperative in the grocery store today, we now have extra time to go to the playground.” Praise children for their flexibility and let them know how important and useful it is to exhibit this quality.

Please use the link to read Ms. Lerner’s full article on helping children learn to be flexible and cope.


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