"Use your words" But what words?        

Hedda SharapanIn 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.

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.

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!

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