The past few days I have been mulling over my emotional discussion with my daughter on her favorite food and have been thinking of ways to encourage a deeper understanding of themselves and of others. It pains me to know that at a very young age she is not comfortable expressing to others what she really, really liked the most and it made me agitated to think "if that is how she reacts to something she really liked, what more on the small stuff? will she then be easily swayed to conform just because the rest chimed in?
I shudder to the thought that my sweet little girl is not showing her true self to others which prompted me to look at it from a proactive angle. I understand from my training that children need the time and space to express themselves. I also know that conformity has social reasons. This can be shown with the study conducted by the Max Planck Institute on 4-year olds based in Germany and Netherlands wherein it revealed that "children as young as four years of age are subject to peer pressure and that they succumb to it, at least to some extent, out of social motivations." So how can I as a parent encourage our children to express themselves and at the same time give them a specific skill set on embracing their uniqueness?
This Friday's freebie was designed to give our kids that opportunity to explore differences, understand other people's (character's) intentions and behaviors. According to Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making, one of the essential life skills every child need is perspective taking. One might wonder but if you don't want them to be a conformist, then why develop perspective taking? In chapter 2 of her book, Ellen Galinsky broke down the components of perspective taking as a social-emotional-intellectual skill that requires inhibitory control (inhibiting our own thoughts to consider the perspective of another), cognitive flexibility (ability to view the situation from different angles) and reflection (thinking of not just the other but also of our own). For them to make sense of their own experiences and also of other people's situations, children need opportunities for perspective taking.
The Roll and Play game is intended to first start children on imitating characters from movies. By putting them in another character's shoes in a form of a game, it can then be an exciting prelude to the main part of the game and that is role-playing members in the family. This will give insight on how family members see each other- the gestures, lines, behaviors. You can also expand this to include other important people like friends, someone from the school, a neighbor. It is not designed to be a solution to the issue of conformity but as a start to opening further discussions. By seeing myself from how my children or partner see me and vice-versa, then I can process better on how to promote other skills like appraisal process (how to figure out the intentions of another person) and attributional retraining (helping children step back to analyze situation). Both are important for children to learn about themselves and others and hopefully find their place in this world.