Should we treat all children the same way?

At yesterday’s Understanding Your Gifted Children seminar, a participating father asked a very interesting question: “Why should we treat our children the same way?”. His question reminded me of a little boy in a child care centre I used to know.

He was aged about 1 1/2 and despite having been at the centre for almost a year, he was always unhappy, crying for his mother, and wanting lots of cuddles from staff. His mother was concerned about his unhappiness, and came to see me about the problem.

As the Director of the centre I spent my time in the preschool room, but after our talk I started making little trips down to the nursery to visit with this little boy. He was particularly gorgeous, and as I got to know him I discovered that he was also very clever. It seemed to me that all he wanted was to feel significant, and for someone to take a special interest in him. He apparently loved books, so I made him a little book, adding new pictures each day of his favourite things and people (including his mum). I wrote the words and names beneath each picture, and we would read this book each time I came. He looked forward to my visits, and he was very proud of his book, showing it to his mother when she came to pick him up. His unhappiness diminished.

The room leader in the nursery, however, had long maintained the stance that although the child whined constantly, he should not be picked up, as other children also had needs. She soon found my visits to the nursery unfair, too, as I didn’t spend the same amount of time with the other children.

I looked around and noticed that no other child joined in or was interested in the activity I did with the little boy, which I pointed out to her. He, however, loved every minute, and wanted more. I explained to her that childcare was not a communistic type of activity, where everyone was entitled to the same amount of attention, whether they needed it or not. It was about what each child wanted and needed. I think the same would be true of parenting children, although you have to be aware both as a parent and as a teacher that some children are quite forward in asking for their needs to be met, whereas others need more encouragment and extra effort.