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March 22, 2024

The Depth of Our Words

When we see the other as whole and capable, we practice caring as a conversation—a reciprocal exchange.
– Carol Garboden Murray, Illuminating Care

Thanks to early childhood professional and Exchange Leader Samantha Balch for today’s message:

Three-year-old Max, jeans around his ankles, waddled towards me at the sink. “Sam,” he asked, both hands holding up his sweatshirt, “are you happy to help me pull up my pants?”

As caregivers and early childhood educators, we spent a lot of time talking with young children: we converse, question, soothe, encourage, and beyond. The practice of choosing our words intentionally is a massive undertaking, wherein we have to assess our own upbringings and values to figure out what we want to convey to children. For me, the primary goal of communicating with children is to let them know that they are important to me, and I’m on their team through the thrilling and the mundane – so phrases like “I’m happy to help you x” and “I appreciate y” are not only automatic because of practice, but because they’re how I want to express my feelings about being with children.

Young children pick up on this, and it impacts their view of the world: of us as their caregivers, of themselves as individuals, of their peers as individuals, too. When Andre struggled to climb to the monkey bars, I was specific about the work he was doing: “you’re working so hard to balance yourself,” I said as he wobbled on the step, followed by “you are so strong!” when he held himself up on the bar. He looked across to Madison, who was now trying to climb up. “She’s working so hard!” Andre yelled, beaming. “She’s so strong, too!”

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