Sunday, October 13, 2013

Validating the "Mine!"

Yep. We in Cohort 6 are there. The first "mine" always begins a new era of interactions between the children. An awareness of ownership creeps in as their ability to voice their needs and wants and their awareness of one another as a conscious being increases. This time is a balancing act between validating the "mine" and helping everyone feel heard and safe.

What is the "mine" really saying, though? It's ownership, yes, but it's more than that, too. The children realize they can control their surroundings and effect the people and things in it. They notice a commonality that they all share: need for space, ability to emote and communicate what they need and want differently. Some children tell you mine by holding on tightly and crying. Others grab a toy and shout the word itself.

"I need space!"
Sometimes, when a child says 'mine' or 'no' they are really meaning they need space.  At Tumbleweeds we work with the children to encourage them to say this clearly to their peers and to be available to hear it when it is said.  We have experimented with various hand motions to go along with it, but encourage the least amount of touching and focus on what someone's face looks like, what are they trying to tell us.
Z is sitting on the couch.  E comes quickly over the arm and leans on him.  Z yells and pulls frantically at him.  I come close by.  "I noticed when E touched you you yelled!  I wonder if you needed space.  You can make a bubble with your arms and say 'space!'  Look.  It worked! E moved back!"  "When Z said space you stopped.  Do you see his face?  He looks sad.  Lets find some space for your body!"

"I'm using it!"
Sometimes when a child says 'mine or 'no' they are experimenting with maintaining ownership.  This is something we will be constantly practicing and refining and revisiting in the years to come as we build our negotiation skills as a community.  Just as making space focuses on watching a child's face, we want listening and emotional support to be the key during these tricky  moments when two children want the same toy.
C is sitting on the floor with the box of cylinders. She is carefully stacking and knocking them down. Z moves close and grabs a cylinder that she is holding. Quickly C yells and scrunches her face. "Mine!" She says loudly. I place my hand on the toy knowing that sometimes someone pulls too hard and it can slip and cause an injury. "I hear Clara saying mine. That means she's still using it. Z, you can say 'can I have it?'"  I pause and Z lets go and moves to something new.   I let go too. "C next time you can say I'm using it!"

"I like gentle touches!" 
Sometimes when a child hits, pushes or grabs they are practicing how they can effect their environment.  When I see this happening or about to happen I quickly approach, yet give space until I feel that safety is going to be an issue.  I slip a hand or arm between the two children,

The way we validate this new self-awareness is bringing their attention to the signs someone needs space, that someone is using a toy, and consistent work on how we an positively effect the people and things in our surroundings.  It is an ongoing process that we will be working on in the years to come.  I get excited when this process begins, because it means we have entered into a new realm of communication, awareness and ability.  We have come to understand each other and ourselves in whole new ways.

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