I was in a junior kindergarten classroom today when I noticed two little boys having a ‘scuffle’ while putting away their snack bags. There were furrowed brows and jutting elbows involved and two very frustrated little faces looked up at me when I asked if everything was alright. ‘Ricky Red’ told me that he tripped in the cloakroom and bumped into ‘Billy Blue’, who got angry and did THIS (motioning a very exaggerated and violent elbow jab).
Billy Blue jumped in to say that Ricky Red did that to him, too. I pieced the story back together for both of them, asking Billy Blue if he apologized after the initial, accidental ‘bump’, and he said that he had. Ricky Red confirmed that he had heard him, that he elbowed him after the apology, and Billy Blue reciprocated. This was what I had witnessed. Neither of them seemed to find anything wrong with that – and so it is with the four-year old mind.
I explained to them that when someone tells us that they are sorry, it means that they wish they could take back what happened. That helps us to not end up with angry feelings just sitting inside us, making us feel bad, or trying to get out. I asked them if they were both sorry about what had happened, and they agreed that they were, then skipped away holding hands and making plans to do something together. The past was dropped. The present moment was all that mattered. What a lesson - a great reminder from the world of childhood.
I reflected on different ways that very situation could be handled (and has been handled) in the years I have been paying attention to interactions with kids. So much depends on our own moods, knowledge, experience, environment and circumstances. Today was not a typical day. I was supervising less than half of the children I usually cover on a Tuesday at recess and my schedule had an unexpected break in it, so that I was not pressed for time. Imagine a world where teachers and parents could always take the time for these great teachable moments!
When I taught Kindergarten and grade one, and when our kids were little, one of my favourite books to read and reread to the 4-7 age group was How to Be a Friend by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (of Arthur fame). No one is born with social skills, and some pick them up more easily than others. Why not teach them?