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What I’ve Learned From Working in the Preschool Ministry

What I’ve Learned From Working in the Preschool Ministry

What I've Learned From Working in the Preschool Ministry

    My son was born on July 31, 2008.  To prepare for the trials and travails of fatherhood, I spent my Sunday mornings working in our church’s preschool ministry.  It was really, really fun, and I look forward to getting back to it over the next couple of weeks (I’ve taken a hiatus because of travel and fatherhood).  In the process, I learned a lot about productivity, management, and life.  Here are a few lessons from working with kids:

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    1. It happens.  You know what I mean.  It happens, it’s messy, and it stinks.  It can always be cleaned up, though, and it is important to remember that “this too shall pass.”  And it passes pretty quickly: after a few icky minutes, everyone affected will be happy again soon.  It’s upsetting, but fretting about it won’t fix it.  The damage has been done, the diaper needs to be changed, and the kid is crying.  This isn’t the time to step back and think about strategy, meaning, or values.  This is the time to get the kid on the changing table, get the wipes, get a new diaper, and take care of business.

    2. Kids cry and kids bleed, but kids bounce back.  No matter what you do and no matter the adult-child ratio, accidents will happen and someone will end up crying, bleeding, or both.  This isn’t the time to lament circumstances or think about the meaning of life or your goals for the next five years.  It’s time to get the band-aids and peroxide and fix the problem.  This requires a steely resolve, too: peroxide on a scrape hurts, and a two-year old doesn’t understand that a little pain now is necessary to prevent more pain later. 

      There’s a leadership and management lesson here, too.  In the short run, it would be easy to pacify the child and let the wound go without proper treatment.  Dealing with a screaming kid who is irate about the fact that you’ve put peroxide on a scraped knee or elbow can be heart-wrenching.  In the long run, though, this creates problems in the form of potential infections and also signals that you aren’t doing your job.  You end up passing the buck to someone else and showing that you’re irresponsible.  In a child-care setting, I wouldn’t trust someone who is afraid to clean up scrapes and bruises.  In a management setting, the ability to grit your teeth and do what you know needs doing even over the protests of your subordinates will pay off in the long run.

    3. Keep your eyes open and be able to see the field when appropriate.  It’s you, a few other adults, and a swarm of screaming toddlers on a playground.  You can’t focus on just one kid or one group of kids for too long, nor can you let them monopolize your attention.  Other people under your supervision need your attention and your guidance, too.  For managers and leaders who are in a position where they have to develop others, it is important not to develop tunnel vision.

    4. Get into the action and have fun.  Aloofness is a vice among managers and knowledge workers.  Never be afraid to get your hands dirty.  If you’re working with toddlers, pretending to be the giant monster storming the Fisher-Price castle isn’t beneath your dignity.  It can also be a lot of fun.  Similarly, when the context is appropriate, don’t be afraid to interact in a meaningful way with your subordinates on projects they find important.

    5. Tell the truth, share, and don’t take things that don’t belong to you.  If you mess up, admit, be honest about it, and do what you need to do to fix it.  Share and share alike, but always remember not to take anything that doesn’t belong to you.  These are great lessons for the kids, and they’re great lessons for adults, too.

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    Art Carden

    Art Carden is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.

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    Last Updated on January 3, 2020

    The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

    The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

    Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

    The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

    1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

    Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

     I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

    To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

    And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

     2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

    Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

    3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

    Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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    4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

    The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

    5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

    Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

    6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

    Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

    7. Positive people smile a lot!

    When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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    8. People who are positive are great communicators.

    They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

    9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

    One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

    10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

    Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

    How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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    I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

    Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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