“Where has my sweet child gone?”

By Robin Wilkins– Pūriri teacher–primary

Parents often ask this question after their child has moved to primary. They feel despondent and wonder where their adorable, well-mannered child has gone. Be assured, this is perfectly natural; the child has entered a new stage of development, one that is loud, messy and rude–what Montessori called the ‘age of rudeness’.

Dr. Montessori identified four major planes of development through which humans grow and mature. She observed common developmental characteristics within roughly six-year increments, which she referred to as the planes of development.

As the first plane child approaches three, they are ready for a prepared environment that serves as a bridge to the outside world. Learning materials are for individual use and encourage the child to sensorially explore the real world. At approximately six however, startling changes begin to happen indicating a new direction in their development, as they move towards the second plane.

At this stage, children become intensely social. Lessons are now given in groups, whereas in preschool, they were one-on-one for the most part, and group work is the norm. The classroom becomes a dynamic, vibrant, sometimes chaotic and messy environment through which the children move.

They develop a new physical strength and stability giving them great stamina and energy. They are adventuresome, ‘rough and tough’ and they enjoy overcoming obstacles and facing challenges.

Imagination develops, as does the reasoning mind and the ability to think abstractly. They begin to question how and why things happen and begin to wrestle with moral questions and making judgements. This is the age that the concept of justice is born. They not only want to discern just from unjust acts, but they want to fight injustice whenever they become aware of it. ‘Tattling’ is a result of this and they will continually report on the behaviour of other children even though they may not be doing the right thing themselves.

Behavioural changes are also evident with the second plane child becoming more extroverted–they want to be with other children and be like them. They play social games and establish groups with new rules. These often involve secret languages, passwords, hidden treasures, hideouts and bizarre rituals.

Kids will be mean to other kids because they are establishing a place in this new social grouping which is so key at this age. At this age they are still somewhat ego-centric, seeing everything in terms of how someone else hurt or embarrassed them; rarely do they see their own part in it. When talking through issues that arise, their stories are often told with glaring omissions which only come to light with deeper investigations.

Every day we help ākonga navigate their social journey and support them in making decisions that positively impact their social relationships.