Children are wild. Emotions are raw. Managing behaviors and helping children learn skills takes patience, humor, restraint and a fair amount of "what the..." mutterings. Take the colored slide as a prime example.
To fully set the scene I was inside making lunch. My assistant was outside with the children. I heard quite the commotion break out and ran out to help.
I quickly accessed the scene:
- Assistant at the sandbox helping two crying children negotiate digging without accidentally tossing sand in each other’s eyes.
- Two capable children yelling at each other with loud but positive negotiation skills over splashing water at the water table (I quickly think, they're ok for the moment and I know they have the skills to sort it out).
- And then there's the two children in a seemingly to-death-brawl at the slide.
I paused them and asked what happened. They were pretending to color with giant yellow and blue bowling pin "crayons" but didn't want to share the space, both of course insisting they were coloring there first.
(I took a VERY deep breath and thought, seriously?? THIS is what we're brawling about? This is what is so important I'm probably burning lunch for? THIS?)
But I mustered patience and said, “I see you both really want to color the slide your color.” I gave options and modeled compromise. We ultimately set the solution that they could color on their side or wait for the other child to be done. One child happily colored her side yellow. The other child hysterically cried he didn't want to color together and didn't want to wait. I validated feelings, offered comfort and alternatives.
"You're really sad you can't use the slide alone right now. I know it's hard to wait. Would you like to color the fence while you wait?" Noooooooooooo!!!!!
"Ok. I know you're sad waiting. I'll wait with you. (Hugs)"
"oh look! She's done if you want to color the slide now".
(Wail!!!!!!!!!!) but if I color it blue now it'll be greeeeeeeen!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[REALLY?!? It's your turn now and you're STILL upset?!]
But I took a deep breath and suggested we erase the slide first, somewhat impressed that in the midst of hysterical fits we're focused on color mixing. We “erased” the slide with a towel, then colored it blue and moved on.
Like I do so many times a day, I walked away shaking my head thinking, THAT really just happened with pretend crayons in an imaginary game... but I also recognized to them it was EVERYTHING.
They worked on:
-Coping with disappointment
-We probably waited too long to make lunch that day...
Raising children takes patience. It takes perspective. It takes empathy and understanding. It takes MODELING what we want them to learn despite our impulse to dismiss moments as trivial and annoying. If we want them to trust us with the BIG stuff they have to trust us with the seemingly small stuff first...