Written by Renee L. Richardson
Name Brands, and Hair Beads, and Ego’s Oh My!!!
As a Preschool teacher, I have been afforded the opportunity of assisting the young learner in developing on both the academic and social level. In addition, I have observed many students who have come into pre-k pretty well-rounded in both academic and social ability. In contrast there have been a few students who I notice from the very first day of school who will experience havoc throughout their little lives if some sort of intervention isn’t sought. In this article, I would like to highlight some extremely important behaviors of which can contribute to the detriment of our young people if not recognized and addressed. Also, I would like to use the “healthy” self-concept as a foundation by which we can compare the “unhealthy” self-concept of which I have continuously observed and somewhat attempted to re-direct during my experiences as an educator; the “unhealthy” self-concept as I refer to it is also present in the student as well as within the character/personality of the parent/caregiver.
First, I would like to establish a definition of the self-concept; the self-concept according to theorist Carl Rogers (1902-1987), the self concept is the organized set of characteristics that the individual perceives as peculiar to him/herself. Further, the self concept is how individuals see themselves based on characteristics, behaviors of which are measured through interactions with others and experiences within the surrounding world. In addition, as a teacher it is apparent that I have students who are from various ethnic backgrounds and with such said each child has a different perception of self; how they see themselves, the things of which define them in either a positive or negative manner. As educators, when attempting to understand the student we must view the student as a “whole” meaning we must take into consideration the parent, the community, the ethnic makeup and various elements of which are contributing factors that total the child in his/her entirety.
The Classroom Experience:
Within the preschool classroom there are at least 13 female African American female students (age 4) who seems to possess a false sense of the self concept in that their self concept is defined by the name brand clothes worn, the fancy braided beaded hairstyles. In addition, these children are wearing $100.00 cardigan sweaters, $70.00-100.00 name brand jeans, $60-$100 sneakers and in some cases I have seen 4 year old little girls wearing $200-$250.00 Prada shoes. All of which the student will resist playing with paint, engaging in circle time on our classroom floor rug, and extreme cases when the student refuse to eat certain foods and desserts out of fear of soiling the expensive clothing. Of course when this issue was first encountered, I laughed at the student and reassured her that her mother would not be upset with her if she would participate in our painting activity because the paint was water based and the parent surely understood that preschool involves all sorts of messy yet rewarding teachable moments; so I encouraged the students’ participation in the activities. However, I did not realize how real the issue was until I came into work the next morning to an infuriated parent who raged about the prices that she spent on her child’s clothing and how she resented the fact that I had okayed the students’ participation in an activity of which I knew would cause her clothes to be soiled. I was shocked and in fact, I thought that I was on Candid Camera and was actually waiting for the hidden camera to be revealed. Never happened, this was a serious issue.
Not only was I advised by the Director not to allow the child to participate in “messy” activities, I was informed that the child could in fact choose a more neater activity during the times that the other children finger painted. Some of the children who were not allowed to finger paint or paint at all cried all day while the others walked about the classroom bragging of their privileges not to paint because there clothing was so very expensive. This caused other children to feel badly about their clothing. (E.g. Ms. Renee Clara isn’t playing in the paint because her clothes are so beautiful, are my clothes ugly)? What does such do for the child’s sense of self concept? Is it defined by how much money your parent pays for clothing?
I was and still am heartbroken when such situations occur because the CHILD misses out on the total experience of the preschool year. Is a label more important than an Aha moment; the very important moments of which the educator receives the joy of observing the sparkle in a student’s eyes as he or she uses a painting as a representation of something concrete within the surrounding environment? My questions as an educator to such parents are: What about name brand clothing defines great parenting? What about denying your child an opportunity to learn defines great parenting?
Tight Braided Beaded Hairstyles:
As an African American woman, I can remember that during my childhood, my mother would braid my hair so tight that it would leave bumps and lumps in my scalp. Upon my telling her that my hair was braided to tightly, she would often slap me in the face and accuse me of being to grown. I meant no disrespect, I was only expressing to my mother, my protector, my nurturer that she was inflicted pain on me; all in the name of looking good. In today’s society, the braided styles have gotten worse!!!! Yikes!!!! Some of my pretty little female students can barely turn their heads from left to right due to the tightness of each corn row braid. To add, the parent/caregiver puts beads on the ends of the braids as a fashion. This is not to suggest that these hairstyles are anything other than cultural and beautiful but to merely suggest that the actual braid could be braided less tightly minus the beads all together; the four year old still has the tendency to put objects into their mouths. The young learner is not an adult but a 4 year old who is still striving to make connections, associations, and sense of the happenings within our extremely complex world. In plain English, THE HAIR BEADS ARE DANGEROUSLY INAPPROPRIATE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN!!! PLEASE STOP-
Overall, parents please do not send the preschooler to school with highly priced clothing thereby disallowing them to receive rewarding childhood experiences. In addition, do not do things to the child’s hair that in the name of beauty that can cause physical injury. We all love our children and feel that they deserve the best but as the adult(s), we must determine what defines “best”.

Author's Bio: 

Renee L. Richardson
Renee L. Richardson has always possessed a passion for learning and attempting to understand people. In addition, she has a profound respect for utilizing every experience whether positive or negative as teachable moments.
Growing up in a low socio economic environment, she has defied physics so to speak with her dynamic approaches to wellness as she reflects on her past experiences as a tool of guidance. In addition, Renee has a BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Psychology, a MA in Education and is currently seeking a Phd in Counseling Psychology; all of which are considered bonuses to her natural talent when interacting with individuals as she assists them in appraoches and methods to foster psycholgical growth.
Renee has also written two books of which is scheduled to be published in 2012. The first book written is a semi-autobiography of which explains the childhood abuse that she endured. The book reveals the tools and methods of which concluded as successful as she encountered and balanced her extremely toxic relationships throughout childhood and well into her adult life.
As a full time teacher, adjunct professor, and motivational speaker, Renee welcomes the challenges of speaking out at public events in the attempt to touch at least one person. Her relentless efforts to spread a positive word whether in person or via the written word, she welcomes the challenges in regard to promoting change.