Of course, any time a group of preschoolers assembles, conflicts are unavoidable. Last week, as Tye was trying to squeeze through a small space at the same time as a little boy (we'll call him Jamie), Jamie hit Tye on the face. Hard. She ended up with a slightly black eye and some missing skin under and next to her eye. That night, she told Daddy, "Jamie hit me at Jack house, give me owie on my eye." She brought it up frequently that day, the next, and throughout the week.
I make a point of always paying attention to Tye's owies, big and
small miniscule. By reacting with love and compassion, I'm teaching her to empathetically do the same when others are injured. This time, while I made sure to care for her physical wounds, I also jumped at the opportunity to use this as a learning experience. Tye had just recently begun to hit Tyler and me when she was upset- not hard, but as an expression of her frustration. So every time Tye mentioned Jamie and her owie, I reminded her, "Hitting hurts. We don't hit. We use words." Then I'd model words she could use if she was angry in place of hitting- "I'm mad! I don't like that!" I also sometimes went on to model phrases she could use to communicate with Jamie, like "Don't hit me, I don't like that," hoping it would give her a feeling of empowerment should the situation arise again.
Today was another playgroup day. Within minutes of our arrival, Jamie pushed Tye down from standing, her bottom landing on the sharp corners of wooden blocks that laid scattered on the floor. Tye bawled. Jamie- who is a really sweet kid with a warm, sparkling smile and a very kind, involved, totally apologetic mother- apologized. Not long after, while Tye was playing catch with another friend (such a precious exchange, by the way), Jamie walked up and hit her in the face. Tye cried again, though this time, I think her feelings were hurt more than her face.
Now, I wasn't there to witness this next part of the story, but my friend, the hostess, was. While Tye and Jamie were sitting at the table eating popcorn together, apparently they had a little conversation that went like this:
Tye: Jamie, you don't hit me anymore, okay? Hitting hurts.
Tye: Thank you.
Then they continued eating their popcorn. Later on, they ran back and forth down the hall together, shared trains and balls, went up and down the slide together, and ate more popcorn together, all without incident.
When my friend relayed the kids' conversation to me, I was first totally shocked- and then so totally, completely filled with pride. Tye found a calm moment and talked with her peer about their conflict, resolving the issue without adult interference. That's something many of us adults have a hard time accomplishing, and Tye's not even two and a half!
The solutions to Tye's problems won't always be this easy. With all my heart, I dread the day I'll have to console her after a major conflict with a peer. But, as is the case with many lessons in life, she'll have opportunities along the way to develop and practice conflict resolution skills. In many ways, today's exchange has laid the groundwork for talking through a quarrel with a friend or confronting a bully in the future. It may not have been a painless lesson to learn- unfortunately, they rarely are- but it is one that will serve her well as she continues to grow.