Disappointment, Risky Play, Brain
Development, and Schools
Maggie Dent, BA, DipED
Author, Educator, Parenting & Resilience Specialist
Commonly known as the ‘queen of common sense’, Maggie Dent has become
one of Australia's favorite parenting authors and educators. She has a particular
interest in the early years, adolescence and resilience, and is an undisputed 'boy
champion'. Maggie is the author of seven major books, including the bestselling
2018 release Mothering Our Boys and her 2020 release From Boys to Men. She
hosts the ABC podcast, Parental As Anything. Maggie is a dedicated advocate to
quietly changing lives in our families and communities. She is the mother of four
sons and a very grateful grandmother.
Twitter: queenofcommonse
Maggie says that she believes that the pandemic has caused “a global awakening.
What does she mean by that?
Do you see evidence of this in your world?
What are some things that were better during the pandemic?
Maggie says that “some children thrive better away from school environments.” Do you
know any children like this?
What is it about school environments that doesn’t work for them?
Maggie expresses optimism that the post-pandemic normal will retain some of the
positives that emerged from this difficult time. Do you share her optimism?
Why or why not?
Maggie says her team had to drag her toward technology “kicking and screaming.
What is your attitude toward the use of screen-based technology in ECE?
Maggie says she is “incredibly worried, that there is “still too much pressure, that we’re
stealing childhood. We're still pressuring them to sit down and color within lines far too
What are your thoughts on this?
Maggie says, “We have to fight really hard to prevent the powers that be from stealing
the children's right to play. It's going to be an ongoing battle. You and I are going to
have to be loud for a very long time to ensure that we can support early childhood
educators to be able to do what they know is most important for our precious children
in those developing years.
What are you prepared to do to “be loud” and to “fight hard?”
Maggie suggests that educators and schools should turn more to social media to
communicate with the busy parents of the children they teach in order to communicate
more effectively.
How do you use social media to communicate?
How could you use it more effectively?
Maggie says that our self-regulating systems, our sense of self, and our emotional
templates for how we experience emotions as adults are all formed in the first five
What does that imply for adults with young children in their lives?
Maggie says that feelings of disappointment can “come out in really big, ugly feelings
and our immediate reaction is to ‘make it go away.” Instead she suggests
acknowledging that disappointment is valid and normal, and encouraging the child to
talk about it.
Why is this so important?
Maggie talks about over protecting children from disappointment, using the example
of playing games that involve winning and losing.
Why is it better to allow children to experience their disappointment?
How does this impact their self-esteem?
Maggie speaks against “shaming,” saying that we are more likely to shame boys
because of the false perception that they are “tougher.” (Teacher Tom added here that
shame and harshness also tend to be more often directed at children of color.)
What is the downside of using shame as a way to control a child’s behavior?
Maggie says that one of the things that challenges many modern parents is, “I don't
want my child to be hurt so I will deny them opportunities of a possibility of being hurt,
thinking that I'm protecting them.” She goes on, “We may be disabling their innate
capacity in that moment to stretch because we know children are biologically wired to
stretch their take themselves to the edge of their own anxiety and fear.
Reflect on your own emotional response to children taking risks in their play.
Are you comfortable letting the children in your life “take themselves to the edge of
their own anxiety and fear”?
Maggie says, “So it's like educators around 10 to 15 years ago decided that the only
way to make kids smarter was to push learning down earlier and to test them more.
What we can obviously see is that it has not worked.” Why is this a problem?
Maggie warns, “The are four key things that are happening in our country. Teachers are
observing that the drop in oral vocab is significant because we're not immersing them
in language and we're not singing, we're not reading as much. The drop in gross and
fine motor skills. So therefore they're less prepared to write and we're expecting them
to do it earlier. The inability to initiate and sustain play. The last one is poor
self-regulation. That's because we're stealing childhood.
What does “stealing childhood” mean to you?
What are your big takeaways from this talk?
Share your thoughts about this talk in our dedicated
thread about this speaker in the private Teacher Toms
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Tom "Teacher Tom" Hobson is an early childhood educator, international speaker,
education consultant, teacher of teachers, parent educator, and author. He is best
known, however, for his namesake "Teacher Tom's Blog," where he has posted daily for
over a decade, chronicling the life and times of his little preschool in the rain soaked
Pacific Northwest corner of the USA. For nearly two decades he was the sole employee
of the Woodland Park Cooperative School, a parent-owned and operated school, knit
together by Teacher Tom's democratic, progressive, play-based pedagogy. He has
authored two bestselling books, consults with organizations about his "Family Schools
program,” and inspires early years audiences around the world at major education
conferences, both virtually and in-person.
Teacher Tom also enjoys sharing his approach through online e-courses for early
childhood educators and parents, and via international ECE conferences. In 2020, he
co-hosted the epic “The Play First Summit” with Fairydust Teaching, attracting more
than 75,000 participants from over 100 countries. This year he is thrilled to be hosting
and producing Teacher Toms Play Summit all on his own.