Now What? An Exercise in Empathy and Team Work For Preschoolers

Last week after playschool, my four year old was tossing his toy dog up into the air. He was playing really close to some trees and soon enough dog became tangled and stuck in one of the tree branches. Oh No!

Now what mama? He asked.

Now, mama will save dog! Oops, no, no no! stop I said to myself…I resisted with all my might. I wanted so badly to intervene, to save the day! Here was precious dog completely stuck and my four year old getting a bit upset. If this isn’t the kind of job for mom to save then day, then what is?

Oh but what if it wasn’t a job for mom. What if I stepped back? Could this be one of those great learning moments for both of us? A moment where my four year old can feel capable and I can learn to resist hovering (not that I hover that much but I sometimes I just can’t help myself…)? So, I stopped myself and simply decided to let this all unfold on its own. From that moment on, there were so many possibilities. Would my little guy cry, ask for help, figure this out? Would this be a moment where he would learn how to handle some stress, practice some problem solving or melt down?

Now what? I replied.

I noticed a twinkle in my son’s eye as I had replied.

I’m going to get him down mama. Watch me!

As he gazed up at the tree he yelled to his doggy “don’t worry, I will rescue you!” The word “rescue” drew in a small crowd of three, four and five year old boys. With a lot of excitement Nicolas explained everything that had happened to his friends. They looked up at the tree and started plotting.

So, you guys want to be on my rescue squad? he said.

One boy took his own stuffed bunny, threw it up into the tree and yelled “Here you go doggy, a friend to keep you company while we figure this out.” (Beyond awesome no?)

Next, my other son, took his football and told the other boys he would try throwing it towards the branches. The other boys started yelling and cheering him on. “You can do it! We are getting you down doggy and bunny!”

Finally after a few throws, the doggy fell down! The other boys asked to take turns with the football to get the bunny down. Once they figured out this system, it became a game. Up and down went the bunny and the dog, taking turns being stuck and unstuck by the group of boys. Nicolas happily came to tell me he had found some help AND made up a game for everyone.

An hour later, the dog/bunny rescue squad was happy, proud and tired.

I was so glad to have resisted my initial need to jump to the rescue. It’s not that it’s wrong to rescue our children. Certainly there are times when we should step in and help, but even then, I would hope to proceed with a sense of trust and encouragement. In trusting that my son would be capable, it created an amazing experience for him. I probably couldn’t have formulated a better exercise in empathy, team work and camaraderie for these boys even if I had tried!

What’s your style- swooping in to save the day or stepping back and encouraging problem solving?

Peace & Be Well,

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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

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