Monday, April 13, 2009

Good Words

"I'm frustrated because you won't stop bothering me and I've asked you THREE times!"

We were driving from the second mattress store of the day to the third when Emma said this to Mouse. Obviously, the two weren't getting along but what I was hearing gave me pause, in a positive sense. Emma's voice was firm, not whiny, and she was speaking to her sister, not complaining to me. 

"Good words, Emma," I said.

In the back seat Emma's frown relaxed, validation smoothing the creases. Mouse, on her part, backed off and peace settled over the valley... for about five minutes.

How often do we ask kids to stop fighting without teaching them how to negotiate? Likely too often, and I am no innocent in this. It's far easier to fire off rules like 'no hitting' than it is to delve into why a child felt compelled to slug her best friend. Emma and Mouse argue. They've even been known to push, pull, snatch, scratch, and bite when the spirit moves them. But they are also being taught to negotiate and, given enough reinforcement, will eventually gain independence--I hope. So far the trend looks good.  You be the judge.

That's Mine, This is Yours
A Play in Infinite Acts
(for our purposes I'll keep it to two)

Act 1: Let's Share 
Scene 1
Emma, age 3; Mouse, age 1.  Emma is playing with toy blocks. She puts one down while searching for one of a different colour. When she reaches back for it she sees Mouse has picked it up.

EMMA: Hey! 
EMMA snatches the block from MOUSE.
MOUSE howls. 
When that doesn't work she bites EMMA on the leg.
EMMA howls.

Scene 2
Hours later...
EMMA is playing blocks again. MOUSE joins her. EMMA quickly moves the blocks out of reach. 

MOM: Mouse, do you want to play blocks, too?

MOUSE nods.

MOM: Say, 'Emma, can I play, too?' 
MOUSE: (to EMMA) Me, too?

EMMA gives MOUSE three of at least a hundred blocks. MOUSE is happy.

MOM: (to MOUSE) Say thank you.
MOUSE: Tanko.
EMMA: You're welcome.

Act 2: My Turn
Scene 1
EMMA, age 5; MOUSE, age 3. 
EMMA enters the kitchen from outside. 

EMMA: Mouse won't let me play on the swing.
(Rough translation: Make Mouse give me a turn before I clock her one.)

MOM: She's allowed to have a turn, Emma.

EMMA: But she's not even swinging. She's using it for Pink Bear's bed.

MOM: How about we put on the timer for five minutes. When it goes off, it will be your turn.

EMMA: Okay. 

EMMA walks back into the yard with the timer in hand. When it finally goes off, neither girl nor bear is using the swing. 

Act 2, Scene 2
Later that day, in the bathroom, after the bath. MOUSE is combing her hair--poorly. EMMA is still in the tub.

MOM: (reaching for the comb) How about you give Mommy a turn, chickadee?

MOUSE: No. Me do it.

MOM: You've done it long enough. It's Mommy's turn now.


EMMA: Maybe you should get the timer, Mommy. I think it's by the slide. 

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