When push comes to shove
DD has always had a gentle and slightly shy disposition when playing with other children. In a roomful of toys, if the one she wants is taken by another child, she will usually go look for something else peaceably. Unless the other child happens to be her cousin. Then familiarity is the differentiating factor and they fight like any normal toddlers would over toys.
Previously, her reaction would be to run to an adult to mediate and help retrieve a toy that had been snatched out of her hands. Lately, she has been doing a lot more reactive shoving back, when her cousin pushes her or tries to wrestle a toy away.
I will be honest here. Although on one hand, we teach her to play nicely and come to us for help, in less than a year’s time when she starts attending preschool, I also want her to be able to within reasonable limits, defend her own interests amongst other children. So nowadays if she doesn’t call for help, I try to observe from the sidelines how she manages the situation, and I don’t step in unless things are getting out of hand between the kids. This is a big internal struggle for me, because as a parent, I just want to take the immediate short route of jumping in to save my kid from the other one who isn’t playing nicely!
The upside is she is learning to look out for herself. Learning to recognise and discern situations where it’s cool if she doesn’t get the toy or object she wants, and situations where it matters enough to stand her ground and defend herself. The downside is, DS is on the receiving end of some of those shove times when his curiosity gets the better of him and his sister is not amused. Throw in the fact that developmentally, DS at this point is still trying to get his land legs around manoeuvering and navigating on knees and unsteady feet…I am kept very busy!! [She is gentle 95% of the time, it’s the 5% I need to watch out for. But yes I know this is already a very fantastic ratio].
I guess this brings DH and me to the next level of complexity in parenting, to teach her it’s needful to play gently and dispense grace with younger kids like her baby brother, but also to expose her to “playground rules” so that she can learn to discern the point at which playing nicely is just not going to work anymore, how to manage a sticky situation on her own, and when’s the threshold to start escalating to an adult for help.
For her, learning independence. For us, learning the tricky balance between over-protection and exposing our child in incremental measures to the challenges of the big big world. I wonder if our parents ever thought so hard about this as I am now. Phew!