Jamie is Jamie
Last week, we talked to Afsaneh Moradian about the importance of unstructured playtime. Today we continue our conversation with Afsaneh to talk about when and how to let our kids work things out without jumping in to fix it or solve it, and when they really do need our help.
Much of parenting is about figuring out when to coach, when to intervene, when to be the mama bear and when to watch and have a conversation after.
This is very much an art for any person spending time with these developing human beings. Sometimes their way of figuring things out is messy, uncomfortable, and loud, but we need to give them a chance to do it. It doesn’t mean we should disappear, but stay far enough back that we can see what’s going on, and not so close that they feel like they’re being watched constantly.
The playground is the best place to see this. Someone cuts your turn in line or someone is going up the slide. Some kids will deal with it by just going down the slide and the lesson will be learned naturally. Many parents yell at the kids to stop going up the slide. But sometimes the lesson is best learned by the experience. They’re still learning their words, negotiating space and figuring things out. Kids have their own process in how to get there.
We can coach them before going to the playground, practicing words to use. “Excuse me.” “What do you want to play?” How can we deal with conflict? We can talk about it and prepare, and then they need a chance to figure it out.
We need to be patient observers, but attentive (not on our phones) because kids are always learning. Sometimes they can figure it out themselves and sometimes they can’t. We can let them try to do it. And when they can figure it out on their own, you’re proud as a parent and they feel proud of themselves.
When do parents need to step in?
Read the cues of your child. If you know that your child, when frustrated, will bite, hit, or throw things, and you see that your child is getting frustrated and it might not be safe for the other child, it’s time to step in and help. Often there’s a very simple solution to the conflict. You’re teaching your child what to do next time. Play dates with kids are a little bit like dating, and how it feels to be in relationship with another family or child.
Are the children staying calm? If children are yelling, get a little closer. Sometimes they’re working it out and it’s just loud. But if it’s a conversation and conflict resolution is happening, it’s ok.
We, as parents, often want to run over and not just let kids be and have their experiences. We need to give them some space to be and work things out.
Give them a chance to negotiate on their own, and only step in when there’s a big conflict and no way for the kids to get out on their own. We want to fix it for them and often when it’s messy, it’s triggering to us.
Observe them without checking out. We need to stay connected while they’re playing to notice the yellow light, or the space where they haven’t passed what they can handle, but they’re heading in that direction, so we can support them.
It’s a process for us and for them. Kids learn faster than we do! Watching a child in a social setting, we can see what the child needs some support around. When kids have conflicts, it doesn’t have to become a super big deal, they just need some support!
Trying to raise strong confident girls, we want them to have certain expectations of the way they’re treated with respect as an adult. Both boys and girls are learning the idea of consent and respecting other people’s bodies. It makes a difference, as we’re seeing in the news right now.
What kind of humans do we want to raise?
We need to give them space to play, and a chance to use their words, to solve problems, to negotiate things. If we jump in and help, then our children don’t learn to work things out, and what they need to learn from the other kids. It shouldn’t be on us to solve their problems or figure out what to play. We need to teach them how to listen and respect one another. We teach them by listening and respecting them.
Is there a problem? Do you need my help? Maybe it’s just creating a list of things you’re noticing that you’d like to work on with your child. Develop strategies and bringing the ideas into play.
Next week, we’ll be back with Afsaneh to talk about Jamie is Jamie, gender, and gender stereotyping.
Afsaneh Moradian has been an educator for more than 15 years. She has worked with students of all ages from preschool to graduate school. Afsaneh is a doctoral candidate in education, author of the upcoming book, “Jamie is Jamie” by Free Spirit Publishing, and proud mom of a 5 year old.
Facebook: Afsaneh Moradian