Friday, January 08, 2016

"I Wasn't Really Going To Trap You"

Man, it's hard figuring out how to get along with the other people.

Earlier this week, I was approached by two four-year-old girls, one of them in tears.

M said, speaking haltingly through her sobbing about one of the boys in our class, "S said he was going to trap me and I didn't like that."

I said, "I looks like that scared you."

"It did."

Then I turned to her friend C, "And did S say he was going to trap you, too?"

"No," she replied, "I just came to help M."

I nodded, "That's a friendly thing to do."

I was quite certain that S had threatened to trap M because a group of boys were in the midst of playing a trapping game involving a couple girls who were willing to be trapped, then rescued, then trapped again. It was a variation on the classic preschool game of chase, involving, naturally, lots of running around. I envisioned how it had happened, S had been racing along when he came face-to-face with M and, in a mis-applied effort to invite her to join this obviously fun game, he had said, fiercely, because that's how you play trapping games, "I'm going to trap you!"

It was, at bottom, an un-artful attempt at friendship that lead to a misunderstanding. It's the sort of thing that happens all the time in preschool, not to mention our wider society. 

I asked M, "What did you say to S?"

She replied, "I didn't say anything. He ran away."

So, he had read "no" in her facial expression and moved on; you can't really do better than that. That said, his overture had made a classmate feel threatened. I said, "Maybe S doesn't know he scared you. Maybe we should tell him." 

M agreed and, conveniently, S was by this time standing a few feet away. I took hold of his arm, "S, M wants to tell you something." 

I felt badly for S who really had done nothing "wrong," in fact he had attempted to include her in his game. I felt badly for M who had been genuinely frightened by his unwanted approach. S asked, "What?"

M, her breathing still made erratic from crying, said, "You said you were going to trap me and I didn't like that!" 

C supported her, "I didn't like it either!"

S answered, "I wasn't really going to trap you. I was just pretending."

There was more discussion, but that was the key exchange. M almost immediately began to calm down. By the time they were done, her breathing had fallen back into a normal pattern and she was even smiling a little. S ran off to the swings, his trapping game apparently no longer possessing its savor.

This stuff is really hard.

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Niels Teunis said...

This is absolutely beautiful. This is how it goes. Wow. I delight in the details of your observations.

greyhoundgirl said...

I love this narrative; it's such a typical happening in any Toddler and Preschool setting. Your response, however, isn't so typical. So many of the teachers I consult with rush to judgement--someone always has to be right and someone has to be wrong; victim and aggressor. I may be using this with teachers as an example of how to best respond in this very common situation--calmly, openly, without judgement for any of the participants, helping them to understand each other and what the other needs. The essence of good teaching. And you also are good at knowing when it's over and time to walk away and let the kids be. Over-processing is overdone. Thanks.

French Valley K-Prep Preschool said...

Yes, this stuff IS really hard! And like you said, "It's the sort of thing that happens all the time in preschool, not to mention our wider society."

Papa Green Bean said...

greyhound girl gets it.

This is another classic example—to be used in your first book!