Friday, March 03, 2017

My Work Here Was Done

I happened to look into the play house as one boy hit the other in the shoulder with a shovel. It wasn't a hard hit. In fact, knowing the boy who did it, I'm pretty sure he meant it as an act of friendship, a kind of rowdy invitation to play. I was some distance off and began to walk that way.

As I approached, I saw the second boy's face tighten in anger. He retaliated with a fist, again not hard, but more by way of sending a message of displeasure. By now I was close to the play house and when he looked up, he caught my eye. Without acknowledging me, he dropped his hands and replaced them with words, "I don't like you to hit me with a shovel!" He pointedly did not look at me again, but I knew he was aware of my presence.

One of my earliest mentors, parent educator Jean Ward once said, "Young children often have a hard time with self control. Usually it's enough to just move closer as a reminder that they can do it." And she meant exactly that, not speaking or scolding, but rather just being physically near children in conflict. Our physical nearness, especially if we have a history of working together on resolving conflicts, is often all they need from us. We stand as a reminder that they already know a better way. Jean spoke of it as "supporting with our presence," kind of like a stake for a growing plant.

The boy with the shovel responded, "I didn't mean to hurt you."

"You didn't hurt me," his sullen friend replied, "But I don't like to be hit."


If either of them then turned to look at me, I'll never know because I was already walking away. My work here was done.

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