In spring when I we are outside sowing seeds, my mind often wanders to the work of
psychologist Carl Rogers and his writings and views on ‘full potential’. His theories have
influenced my professional practice in my role as a Nursery Owner, and views on life in general. He believed that each individual has a unique and special full potential that he or she is striving towards, and that one of the key aspects of our job as early years professionals is to facilitate this growth in young children. But if we accept that this is the case, what must we do to fulfil our responsibility?
Biological factors influence the way each individual will grow, flourish and develop, but
just as flowers will thrive if the conditions in which they are grown are right, so too will children prosper and reach their full potential if their environment is right for them. The environment should, Rogers tells us, provide them with “genuineness (openness and congruence), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard) and empathy (being listened to and understood)” . It is up to us as adults to ensure that this is what children receive when in our care, and to do this it is useful to keep the following in mind.
Firstly, it is important that we remember that each and every child wants to develop and
reach his or her own full potential. If we support them, nourish them, care for them and offer them warmth and love, children will develop into successful adults, much like seeds will develop into beautiful flowers if tended appropriately. We must also remember that even when seedlings are neglected, deprived of water, warmth, care and attention, they still endeavour to grow. Children are similar in this way, as even when life puts obstacles in their path and difficulties arise, they will still strive to reach their full potential.
Secondly, each child, like each flower, is unique and beautiful, and should be recognised as
such. We do not look at flowers with an eye on an agreed image of the ‘perfect flower’, nor do we compartmentalise them, categorising them by different areas of their development or structure. We do not – unless, perhaps, we are RHS judges – look at them and say, “that could be brighter there, or a slightly different colour here; this could have longer stems,” etc. Instead, we appreciate them for what they are.We should strive to have the same outlook for the children in our care. Instead of trying to control and manipulate them into line with universal norms, developmental milestones or our own preconceived ideas of what they should be doing, we should try to stand back, watching with awe and supporting them at the appropriate times as they develop in their own special way. All children are wonderful individuals, if we allow them to be.
Finally, we must recognise that we never truly reach our ‘full potential’, even as adults. Full
potential is, to borrow the words of Carl Rogers, “a direction, not a destination”, as we can always continue to grow and develop, so whoever we are, we should never stop striving to improve.