"Use your words" But what words?
By Hedda Sharapan
In just a few days I hope to be seeing many of you at the NAEYC annual conference in DC. Dr. Roberta Schomburg, and I will be presenting our “Mad Feelings” workshop as a NAEYC featured session Saturday afternoon. I’ve had the chance to present this workshop hundreds of times since we developed it with Fred Rogers more than a dozen years ago, and it’s great to keep on hearing that this material continues to be so meaningful and so helpful. We all know how hard it can be to deal with children’s anger.
When I gave this workshop recently, somebody asked about a common situation -- two children tugging at the same plaything. Can’t you just hear, “If you two can’t share it, I’m going to have to take it away.” The problem with that solution is that nobody wins -- nobody can play with it, and nobody learns conflict resolution either! Besides that, maybe they just aren't able to share yet. And it’s such a teachable moment! (I just marvel at toddler teachers who are managing to help a roomful of very young children who can’t yet share, who can’t yet see things from another person's perspective, who don’t yet have self-control and don’t yet have many words to express themselves.)
The other day in a Chicago area child care center I watched a teacher take advantage of a moment to help two very young toddlers who don’t have many words and certainly not many social skills. Here’s what happened -- the teacher noticed a struggle when one boy grabbed at a stuffed animal that the other one had. She didn’t insist they share. Instead, she called out to the boy who originally had it, “Tell him ‘MINE!’” One word is all he needed. Obviously that teacher has worked hard at helping the children in her group find ways to manage conflicts like that, because I watched the boy call out that powerful word, and I saw the other child let go. He wasn’t very happy, but even he heard the power of words.
A Video from Child Care
As children get more fluent and have more social skills, we can give them even more help “using words.” Here’s a scene from our Mad Feelings workshop. Watch how the teacher helps two young preschoolers who both want the same toy bus.
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I’d love to hear from you about how words have been effective with the children in your care at angry times. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
M.S. Child Development
Director of Early Childhood Initiatives
P.S. It would be great to see you at NAEYC. Come join us at our “Mad Feelings” workshop – or at our “Lullabies to Literacy” workshop earlier Saturday morning with its focus on infants and toddlers. They’re both essentially about relationships – isn’t it all!
From Fred Rogers
"What a gift we all give to children when we encourage them to talk about what makes them happy, jealous, angry, shy, afraid, or proud. Whether we're children or adults, adding to our emotional vocabulary can often add to our ability to cope with what we're feeling. Using words to describe what's inside helps remind us that what we're experiencing is human...and mentioning our feelings to others can make those feelings more manageable."
from Many Ways to Say I Love You
Can You See What I’m Thinking
Through “Can You See What I’m Thinking,” children can learn that no one can “read” their thoughts, so they need to communicate with words or non-hurtful actions to let people know how they feel.
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