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Let It Ripple

Updated: Jan 16

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (May 31, 2018)


Just this past week, I was with my son at a playroom and as he was playing with a barbeque play set and making ‘food’, some vocal girls got my attention. I looked over and three kindergarten-aged girls were playing together by the kitchen play set where they were cooking food together. Amongst the three girls was a little boy, probably about 2 years old, and the girls couldn’t have been more than 5. I noticed that every time the boy touched something that they were playing with, the girls would shout at him loudly ‘no!’. He wasn’t taking things away from them as they were playing with them; he was just picking objects up near them. But each time he did, he would be shouted at. After which, I noticed him copying them (as toddlers do!) and pointing at nothing in particular and shouting ‘no!’.


I watched this take place for a couple minutes and then out of curiosity more than anything else, I casually asked the girls “how come you’re not letting the boy play with you?”. They gave me an impassioned reply “we’re not letting him play with us because he’s so little! We’re big girls now and we don’t play with little boys!”. I was amazed at the conviction they said it with but I obviously did not agree with them. So I replied “just because he’s younger doesn’t mean you can’t play with him. You can just teach him how to play. You’re big girls so you know how to teach him. And playing together can be fun!” They contemplated for a while and perhaps because they are still at that impressionable age when they will listen to adults relatively easily, they said “oh yes!”


Fast forward to 15 minutes later, these three girls were not playing with 1 but 3 little boys (and with me!). They had set up an ice cream shop and were selling ice cream cones to the little boys and let the boys freely roam around their play area and play with their things. And as I sat back to watch the scene, I couldn’t help by smile in contentment. Within a span of 20 minutes, 3 girls went from being mean to being kind; from being exclusive to inclusive and I hope they kept it up even outside of that playroom.


And it also made me think. That first little boy was learning from these girls to say no and point his finger. And likely he’d do the same with others, perhaps his age or younger in the future. Every action we take creates a ripple effect and the effect can be a positive or a negative one. How do we create positive ripple effects?


Some people have challenged me to say that character isn’t taught and that it’s caught. I am in full agreement that it has to be caught, meaning that we have to be role models and show them what living with character looks like so that they can ‘catch’ it. But I disagree with the comment that these things shouldn’t be taught. There are some schools of thought that say that children need to work things out for themselves and adults shouldn’t interfere in their learning process. But for young children, they are learning all the time – it’s just about whether they are learning the right things or not. And we have the responsibility to teach them what the right things are, why it’s right and how to do it.


That little boy was learning from the older girls how to shout and say no. The girls were learning from each other what was socially acceptable in their small group by excluding the boy. But after being taught that they can do things differently, they did it and the ripple effect went from being negative to positive. How will you create a positive ripple effect today and how will you teach your children to?


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泛起漣漪


上星期,當我和囝囝在遊戲室裡一起用燒烤玩具「製作」食物時,一群在高談闊論的孩子吸引了我的注意。我看了看,三名看起來不過五歲的女孩正在廚房裡玩「煮飯仔」,而她們中間有一位約兩歲的小男孩。我留意到那位小男孩每次碰到這班女孩正在玩的玩具時,她們都會向他大吼「No」。然而,這位小男孩只是撿起身旁的物件,並沒有搶走其他人的玩具,惟他每次這樣做時都會被這班女孩大吼大叫。過了不久,我發現他開始模仿這班女孩的行為(像很多幼兒一樣!),指著任何東西大喊「No」。


我觀察了這個情況好幾分鐘,好奇之下,我問這班女孩:「為什麼你不讓那位男孩跟你們一起玩?」她們情緒激動地回應:「因為他年紀太小了!我們長大了,當然不會跟小男孩一起玩!」我對她們的回應稍感驚訝,顯然不認同她們的說法,故此我回應說:「他年紀小並不代表你們不可以跟他玩,你們可以教他如何一起玩啊!你們是大姐姐,已經有能力教導他了,一起玩會更好玩!」或許因為她們還小,容易受教,她們思考了一陣子,異口齊聲地說:「也是!」


十五分鐘後,我看到這三位女孩開始跟不止一位,而是三位小男孩一起玩耍(還有我!)。她們開了一間雪糕店向小男孩「售賣」雪糕,又讓小男孩在她們附近走來走去及玩她們的玩具。看到這情景,我不禁嘴角上揚,女孩們的態度在短短的二十分鐘内完全逆轉:從刻薄到善良、從排斥他人到包容,我希望她們在遊戲室外都能繼續秉持這種態度。


我也不禁回想,那位小男孩剛開始時嘗試模仿這些女孩的行為,只懂大吼大叫和「手指指」,他顯然會在將來對其他人做同樣的東西。我們所作的每個行為都會產生好的或壞的「漣漪效應」,那麼我們可以如何創造正面的「漣漪效應」?


不少人曾質疑我,指出品格不能單從書本上授課,而是需要身教。我完全認同身教尤其重要,亦即成年人自身需要為孩子樹立榜樣,讓他們看到如何活出好品格,繼而模仿。然而,我不認同品格不能透過書本作教導,很多學校認為孩子需要自己解決問題,大人不應干預他們的學習過程,惟幼兒在成長過程中會不停學習,我們有責任告訴他們什麼是正確的事、為什麼這件事是正確,以及如何做正確的事。


小男孩模仿女孩的行為,而女孩在她們的群體裡學習她們自以為是對的觀念——排斥男孩子。然而,當孩子被告知、被教導他們有不同方法對待同一樣事情,他們所產生的漣漪效應將可由負面化為正面。從今天開始,你會如何創造正面的「漣漪效應」,教導孩子為身邊的人帶來正面的影響?


2018年5月31日(香港經濟日報)



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