In the past 30 months of running daycare in our home, I have learned so much about being with kids. And a lot of that learning has actually been learning about myself – my values, feelings, boundaries, triggers, blindspots, etc.
I became especially aware of this a few days ago when a friend of ours asked a seemingly simple question about how to respond to a situation with their children –one that was unfolding in front of us. The question wasn’t asked in desperation, but more with just curiosity.
The older of the two siblings had come to a moment where they were playing/ toying with / taunting the younger one by holding out something they knew was wanted, asking if they wanted it as an offering, and then running away and saying “then come get it!”. The younger one had been running and chasing previously, but now was upset.
I could see myself saying so many different things here depending. Here are a few things that quickly came to mind, none of which I am saying are ideal.
I could say to the younger one:
That chasing game was a lot of fun at first, but it doesn’t look like your having fun anymore. Why don’t you come over here and we will find something else to do.
I could say to the older one:
Jack, if you want Tessa to chase you, you could ask her, ‘Tessa, do you want to chase me?
Jack, I’m not going to let you taunt your sister with that toy. If you are done playing with it, hand it to Tessa. If you are still playing with it, you can come over here to play with it by me.
I could also see myself saying to both of them,
Jack and Tessa, we are going to be getting ready for bed soon. Why don’t each of you grab a book to read and find a seat on the couch?
This list is not exhaustive or exemplary, but I think it’s illustrative of a range of moves that are, for me, rooted in different ways of seeing / framing the event and are also based in a foregrounding / backgrounding different values I hold.
In the first response, I am framing the event as something fun that has come to an end. I can help it come to an end graciously. I am also modeling something that is important to me — that of becoming more aware of when something is no longer pleasant to us and to finding ways to use our own agency to opt out.
In the second response, I am framing the event as something fun that could use some of my help to repair. I’m modeling social / communication skills and giving an opportunity to find out for themselves whether the fun is or isn’t ready to come to an end.
In the third response, I am framing this as a transgression of sorts, transgression to a person but also to their fun. I am pointing out the transgression, re-establishing a boundary I am comfortable with, and giving options for the two of them moving forward.
In the last comment, I am leaning on a routine to signal a transition, therefore closing off possibilities for their play. I am probably also acting to preserve my sanity, and signaling to my guests that our evening together is winding down.
All of these choices are made easier, in part, because I am not just responding to the event. I am making actions toward things I hold important — the continuation of play and the learning of skills to do so independently; recognition of one’s feelings and agency in playing with others; firm, calm and clear boundary setting / resetting; and management of our care through clear communication and established routine.
Part of what makes giving advice so hard is that good advice cannot be five absent an understanding of one’s values are as a care giver / parent, but also an understanding of how the caregiver does and can variably see the event. Learning to see events from multiple perspectives is important, and responding in concert with one’s values helps you to reframe the event.