While we encourage every child to be an individual, and nurture the differences that make each one special, there are times when children must conform to the rest of the class. Aaron was an extremely bright, precocious child with a mother who believed that he could do no wrong. She felt that he was more advanced than the other children and should be given special privileges. For whatever reason, he didn’t like to say thank you. When the teachers tried to insist that he use good manners, he’d refuse.
They called his mother and explained the problem they were having. Aaron’s mother said that at home he is allowed to say “T-Y” instead of thank you. She never knew why he was so adamant about it, but as long as he said “T-Y,” that was fine with her. The problem was that in a classroom community where the teachers are trying to instill good manners in young kids, he was allowed to do things differently.
And this wasn’t an isolated example. Andrew’s mother gave the teachers clear instructions regarding what he was allowed to modify if he didn’t want to do something. Sometimes, the teachers followed her wishes, but other times they could not. On one occasion there was outbreak of lice in the classroom. The teachers had to check each child individually by combing his hair in a special way to seek out any lice. Andrew’s mother protested. “He is an individual and he is uncomfortable about having his teacher comb his hair,” she explained.
The teacher responded that she would be very quick and as soothing and gentle as possible, but in this situation Andrew had to conform to the group. They could not risk that he might have lice and would bring them back into the classroom.
We want all of our children to be individuals, but there are times when they must follow the rules and conform for the greater good of the group.