A funny thing happened at playgroup this week: A little girl who usually coos over my baby saw him in a whole new light. He was competition for her balance bike, a threat to her happy game, a reason to protect herself and what was hers. Her scowl and sharp turn away as he crawled over to take her handle bars made me realise he is catching her up, she is his peer; in her eyes he’s not a baby anymore.
I’ve started to experience ‘me vs you’ instances like this between toddlers and it can be really hard to know whether to jump in and protect my baby or let them ‘fight-it-out’.
I’m new to this and find myself looking round the room to see how the other parents handle it and it varies from those who don’t see (or pretend they don’t see) to those who remove their child from the situation completely for a full telling off, depending on the crime committed.
Of course little children don’t snatch or push on purpose or to intentionally hurt, they simply don’t know any better and are tussling for their own space and place. Much of it, I’m sure, is exploring their own way of communicating, some look as confused as I feel about what is going on. But how soon can children know right from wrong and how soon can we help them to recognise it when they are playing?
I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer here but my conclusion, so far, is that I feel a lot less on edge if a parent shows some acknowledgement of the situation – children mirror our behaviour and there’s no harm in showing a bit of empathy.
To some extent children do have to ‘fight-it-out’ to learn. It’s all part of understanding the ways of the world. In my view, gently and consistently showing them what’s right and wrong as early as you can – even if they don’t understand what the hell you are on about – surely can only set them in good stead for future balance bike related wars. It’s a good habit to get into.