Parenting Lifeboat

One option for helping children share

When I was working at my family daycare, two children (ages 4 and 6) were playing with playmobil plastic trees, and animals and people together. Suddenly, I noticed that they both started arguing over what should happen next in their make believe scene. I moved in closer towards them and said, “It looks like you both have an idea of how this game should go.” I said this because I was making an observational statement to let them know I understood the situation at hand.

Then I said to them, “how about you play over here your way, and you play over here your way, and then you’ll both get to play the game the way you want.” This suggestion supports their autonomy in them both wanting to play differently, without “forcing” them to play nicely together. They decided to play separately and were only two feet apart from each other. 

I didn’t leave the room and observed them for a bit until they finally figured out a way to play together on their own, because they wanted to play together. They figured out how to play with each other when I supported them in their autonomy to play by themselves, and they both realized they’d rather play together than alone. 

When you allow children NOT to share, they are more apt to share because it’s their choice to do so. They might realize that they don’t want to play alone, and playing with others may be more fun.

How to be with your big feelings when your kids are being uncooperative or unsafe? How to hold self compassion for yourself after you’ve lost your cool?

One day, there were two children laughing and playing at my family daycare. I was worried because they were tipping a bench that was right in front of a bookcase that was not bolted down. 

I first said to them, “When you tip that bench, I’m afraid that the bookshelf is going to fall on you.” They laughed and did it again. 

The bookcase started to fall, and as I reached out with frustration and anger (because I had just warned them of this exact thing happening) in a split second, I redirected my anger towards the bookcase by saying, “Whoa! That bookcase almost fell on you!” in an angry voice, instead of directing that anger towards the children. 

So sometimes it’s about catching yourself before directing your frustrations at children. However, we are all human so If you do lose your temper and yell at your child, and you don’t want to be yelling and you wish you hadn’t in the first place, then it’s important to have self compassion. 

What does self compassion look like? You can say to the child, “Mommy/Daddy is having a hard day, I wish I had done that differently.” Another example could be going into the bathroom and looking in the mirror and saying, “I am a loving parent!” (or any other type of positive self-talk that counterbalances the negative feelings you’re feeling about yourself) in a loud voice. Or have a little cry to release the distress.