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Day 93: Recognizing Authority

Here is another learning activity adapted from our “Home Preschool Curriculum” developed by Fran Wisniewski and Diane Flynn Keith for

Remember, only do these learning activities if they are enjoyable for you and your child. Do not treat this as a “must do” lesson. It’s simply a fun activity that provides an opportunity to learn, while building “readiness skills” for the school or homeschool environment.

~ Recognizing Authority ~

This “skill” is obviously required in a school setting, so that the teacher can control the students. (More on that in a minute…)

Most children, even those who don’t attend school, recognize their parents and other adults as authority figures to one degree or another. Most children, when placed in an environment such as a Sunday school class, a dance class, or a martial arts class, etc., will recognize the teacher as the authority figure in charge. This is especially true if their parents have modeled for them how to behave in various learning environments such as “mommy and me” classes, sports and recreation classes, library story-times, docent-led museum or zoo tours, field trips, and church services. Healthy, normal kids naturally pick up social cues as they are exposed to new environments and situations, and will undoubtedly know how to behave with any given authority figure if it has been appropriately modeled for them.

Of course, for their own safety, young children should be taught to immediately respond to the authority of police, fire personnel, and security people in the event of an emergency. Again, this is something parents can model for their children. Arrange for tours of the local police station or firehouse. These agencies will talk to your children and let them know what to do in the event of an emergency. 4-5 year olds can learn a great deal and so will you!

Back to school… When a child goes to school they must understand who is in charge – namely, the teacher. They must follow the teacher’s orders, and do what they are told, whether they want to or not. They must be polite and conform to the classroom rules and behavior required by the teacher whether it is relevant to their interests and needs or not. They have no power to defy the teacher or to remove themselves from that situation. There are very few other situations in life where that is true, except for prison. No wonder students get angry, act out, or become depressed and unhappy.

Authoritarianism is a useful crowd control technique in classrooms and penitentiaries. Unfortunately, when children experience it on a daily basis for years on end, it can lead to the loss of individuality and personal integrity. Children learn to subject their own interests and needs and conform to the needs of an authority outside of themselves. They learn to follow, not lead. The younger a child is placed in this kind of environment, the greater the risk for harm.

If your child goes to a government school, they will have to learn to exist in that hostile environment. There may not be an effective way to fully prepare any child for school or to protect them from the harm that may come from attending school.

That said, there are coping strategies and experiences that will help prepare a child for dealing with situations in the real world where they may need to recognize and subjugate themselves to an authority figure. These same strategies will help them transition into a school environment (but proceed at your own risk):

  • Introduce yourself and your child to the teacher or person in charge. Tell your child that this person will tell them what to do, and will help them if they need help.
  • Explain the rules and guidelines for behavior in each place you visit whether it’s a museum, a library, a store, a school, or a friend’s home. In order to enjoy the privilege of being in these places, you must abide by their rules even it they don’t match your own house rules or the rules of other places. For example, you may run at the zoo but you can’t run in the museum. You may use loud voices outside, but you use a quiet voice or whisper in the library. You may allow everyone to walk around in shoes at your home, but your friend may have a “no shoes worn in the house” rule.
  • Teach your child how to listen attentively.
  • Teach your child how to raise their hand to make a comment or ask a question.
  • Teach your child polite manners including using phases such as please, thank you, excuse me, etc. Read these books about polite manners:

Get innovative learning activities themed around dates of historical importance (and whimsical holidays) with “’s Learning Calendar!” It’s jam-packed with fun for the whole family!  Get your calendar today at:

Copyright 2010, Diane Flynn Keith, All Rights Reserved. Publication or distribution in any medium including blogs, newsletters, ezines, websites, or online discussion lists is strictly prohibited without prior written permission.Thank you for helping to protect my copyright.

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