The needs of children #4. The most important, most overlooked one: responsibility

More wisdom from Teacher Tom:

“Even 2-year-olds step up to the responsibility of the real hammer. An adult still needs to be there at first, insisting on eye protection, reminding the child to find a safe area in which to get to work, one free of other people who might be hit or things that might get broken, and to focus her on the concept of targeting a nail (or a bottle cap: we’ve found that it’s quite satisfying to drive them into soft wood). It’s not a hard thing to do because a child with a hammer in his hand instantly becomes a calmer child, a more focused child.  A plastic hammer is a toy; a real hammer is a responsibility, children know it, and even the youngest, even the most hyperactive, are capable of taking it on.”

“Responsibility is one of those things that is either real or it doesn’t exist. There is no halfway. No amount of lecturing on responsibility will replace the real thing.  There is no way to “practice” responsibility without actually having it in your possession. If we want children to learn to be responsible, we must in fact turn over to them something that is real, and indeed, give them room to make mistakes, and that means the potential for making “wrong” choices. If there isn’t that potential, then it’s not responsibility at all: it’s a plastic hammer. And the kids know it.”

I can’t understand why MKP is so neglected. She was the first director of the NCB and author of this forgotten book (below). Tim Gill mentioned her once in a blog of his , after I enthused to him about her, he didn’t credit me — I suppose I’m not a fellow celebrity. Boohoo, woe is me. And the NCB isn’t what is used to be, I’m afraid, just another fund junkie charity business sucking up to government for contracts: a lapdog, not a guard dog. But I digress.

I commend her work to you! It was this book that, when Lesley from York Playspace introduced it to me when we ran playwork training together (thanks Lesley!),  it being far better known in the under-5s arena, that fired my realisation about why I thought a lot of playwork was soppy.

“Mia Kellmer Pringle suggests that there are four significant developmental needs:-

a. The need for love and security

b. The need for new experiences

c. The need for praise and recognition

d. The need for responsibility

The Needs of Children: A personal perspective

Front Cover
“First published in 1974, this publication highlighted the virtual revolution in children’s physical development after the second world war – changes that are increasingly relevant today. Children are taller, they mature earlier, certain diseases have been almost eliminated, and obesity is a more serious problem than malnutrition. It had been hoped that rising standards of physical health and material prosperity would reduce the incidence of low educational attainment, maladjustment and delinquency. However, it has become increasingly evident that problems of emotional, social and educational malfunctioning will not be solved by improvements in standards of living alone. This ebook offers a comprehensive review of the developmental needs of all children and the consequences for the emotional, intellectual, social and physical growth and development of children when, for one reason or another, these needs are not adequately met. It brings together insights from the many relevant fields and is a valuable resource for those wishing to know more about child development and parenthood as well as those concerned with disseminating such knowledge.”
What I saw was that playwork was satisfactory on b) and c), poor on a) and needed to be put in special measures on d), to get all Ofsted on yo’ ass.

If you’re interested, I do a little presentation on MKP’s 4 children’s needs and I have developed a simple audit tool based on her ideas.

The MKP Needs Audit is a method (in the same spirit as “First Claim’ and ‘Quality in Play’ and that new one developed by Cambridgeshire CC and John Fitzpatrick that I can’t remember the name of), for assessing the extent to which your play ‘setting’ (hate that word) is meeting all 4 of these crucial needs of children. 

It’s a holistic thing: if you aren’t meeting all 4 , it’s likely that a lot of your efforts are going to waste, or are even counter-productive. Spoilt brats are what you get if only need c) is met!
Screen shot 2015-08-18 at 15.24.47
Screen shot 2015-08-18 at 15.24.31
© Arthur Battram 2002
And need a) is the reason why, whatever your staffing, and whatever your hours of opening, cannot be met by a chaneable and changing timetable. If you can only be open one night a week, OK, but choose a night and stick to it. If it’s Tuesday at 3.30 pm be there, EVERY Tuesday. Of course that is utterly obvious, so explain to me why so many play projects piss about with opening days and times?

Email me if you’d like to know more… 

2 thoughts on “The needs of children #4. The most important, most overlooked one: responsibility

  1. Arthur, I may be a little out of my depth here for I have to admit to at least a mild allergy in respect of audit tools (I am suseptible to mental rashes). If I’ve understood the approach of your audit tool (is it expressed in the diagram with the different coloured circles, or have I got that wrong?) depending on the relative location of the circles, the degree to which they merge (merge=perfect?), indicates the degree to which the individual MKP criteria are achieved. It’s a form of measurement, except without numbers. Have I that right? But how do you measure love and security, aren’t they absolutes in the context we’re speaking about? Can one be a little bit loved, or a little bit secure, and how might one feel if one were? Or have I misdirected myself?

    • I deliberately witheld the details, so you made up your own version, sir! I loathe toolboxes and checklists and audit tools. Mine is an anti audit tool. The underlying purpose is to unearth and provide debate about praxis. But people have been brainwashed into thinking they need tools. Actually, it’s probably more that funders have been brainwashed and then impose their nonsense on fundees.

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