Welcome to Joyful Toddlers!

This space is about increasing our enjoyment of the young children in our lives through concrete action and by adjusting the lens through which we view them. My work comes out of LifeWays, which is inspired by Waldorf education. I welcome your comments, and questions about increasing your enjoyment of the children in YOUR life.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Toddler/Infant Sibling Interactions

My daughter is two and my son is almost one month old. My daughter is madly in love with her baby brother and wants to hold and carry him. I help her hold him while sitting down, but am having a tough time redirecting when she tries to pick him up or take him out of my arms and pulls on him. I find myself saying no while playing tug o war with my infant- not effective parenting :( Really, I'm looking for advice on those situations when the toddler puts herself or others in harm’s way. Another similar example is that when she plays with her friends, she will hug and not let go until the friend cries or falls over.

Dear Erin,
               It always feels like such a shame when we see a child go in with good intentions, only to have things end poorly.  I have had several children in my care whose instincts for affection seem to be to grab and not let go.  The good news is that their hearts are in the right place.  The bad news is that it’s a hard habit to break!  I’ll answer the sibling part of your comment today, and address the friend-hugging another day.

Toddler/Infant Sibling Interactions
               I’ve noticed that two-year-olds with infant siblings do best when they get lots of help with EVERY physical interaction, until they have strong habits in place.  The best way to establish these habits is to have very firm ‘rules’ about how it’s OK to touch the baby:  she can hold him sitting down while you help, or she can touch him with one finger.  I’m a huge fan of one-finger-touching for 1- and 2-year-olds.  It is useful for ANYTHING they might want to grab, that could be hurt or ruined:  flowers, computers, your earrings, your baby son.  So, first introduce these rules.  She already knows about you helping her hold him when she’s sitting down, so introduce the one-finger rule.  “You can touch your brother with your one finger.  This is how we do it.  That’s right!  You’re doing it too!  You can always touch him with your one finger.”  Then, for the next several weeks, EVERY time you see her going to touch him, jump to her side and help her touch him with her one finger.  Whenever she tries to touch in another way, lovingly show her how she CAN touch him.  (If she is able to kiss him without grabbing, kissing on the cheek or arm is OK too.  If she can’t resist grabbing when she kisses, teach her to blow kisses to him to show her love and affection.) After a few weeks of physically helping her touch with one finger every time, you will start to be able to remind her verbally from a little distance away.  Soon she’ll do it by herself, looking right at you.  “That’s right!  You know how to touch your little brother!”  Even once she does that, she may still need help when she’s tired or excited. 
She may also occasionally try to touch him in another way, looking over at you to see if it’s OK.  For now, go ahead and remind her how she CAN touch him—with one finger.  Once her habits of touching him really gently are firmly in place, you can start to expand from there.  Acknowledge that you’re changing the rules.  “Now that you know how to touch him so gently, you can touch him with your whole hand.  You can stroke his arm, like this.  Yes!”  Expand the acceptable ways of touching very slowly, and start helping her notice if he’s liking her touch or not liking her touch.  “Look, he’s pulling away.  He’s saying, ‘that’s too rough!’” or, “Even though you’re touching him gently, he’s saying ‘Not right now.’” And help her touch him in a way that he likes, or if he’s not liking anything, to pull away and blow him a kiss instead.
This technique is very energy-intensive for several weeks or even a few months.  But it’s totally worth it, because you’re laying the foundation for positive sibling interactions for the rest of their lives.  Siblings who notice what the other one wants (or doesn’t want), and respond respectfully to those cues, have positive relationships with one another.  This noticing and responding respectfully is the key to bypassing the bossy/bullying/playing-the-victim/picking-on-each-other-till-they-explode cycle that can mar many sibling relationships.  So start laying the groundwork now!

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Help Getting to Sleep

My question is about my 20 month old and sleep. My daughter usually takes several hours to get to sleep no matter what. I really feel she doesn't get enough sleep, and she is often exhausted but cannot seem to stop wiggling. She has always had a great deal of trouble sleeping, she is very active, smart, and has been overly alert since birth. She is quite sensitive to noise etc. but fine otherwise. I keep her routine as predictable as I can...esp around sleep times...and I make sure she plays outside for a while each day, but it seems she needs to much more to get to sleep. I am exhausted and a bit worried because we have a new baby coming soon.
ANY suggestions are appreciated. We have and continue to explore food allergies, sensory issues (i believe that is a contributing factor), we have a homeopath, have seen crainiosacral therapists etc. etc.

Hi Laura,

Oh my gosh, what a challenge for you guys.  It sounds like you're doing a lot of the things I would suggest, and how frustrating that none of it seems to work consistently.

I am currently reading a book that I am LOVING, and might be just what you need.  It is called "Sleepless in America:  Practical Strategies to Help Your Family Get the Sleep it Deserves," by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  I'm only about half way through, but so far I've agreed with just about everything that she's said.  She talks about how when children are sleep-deprived, their bodies emit stress hormones, which make it much harder to get to sleep.  She talks about teaching children how to relax their bodies, and she gives lots of tips on how to minimize stress levels throughout the day, and how to approach bedtime.  She's not a cry-it-out proponent.  Her book is not focused on toddlers specifically, but she does address the issue of children who have always been jumpy and had trouble sleeping.

Setting the Mood
From my personal experience, the thing that I've found that makes the most difference is the lead-up to bedtime.  I dim the lights, pull the curtains, and start talking in a very soft voice, walking very softly, helping the children 'wind-down.'  I actually don't tell or read a story, because I find them to be more stimulating than calming for many kids.  I make the sleep-room VERY dark, and have the lights already out when we tiptoe in and slip into bed.  I start by rubbing backs as I sing a lullaby (I sing the same one over and over, gradually getting slower and softer, till I'm humming, then I finally drop silent.  I lie down on the floor next to the children, and I doze off.  They can almost never resist that.

Help Their Fingers
For children who have trouble falling asleep, I have a few tricks that have worked.  One is that I've noticed that lots children keep themselves awake through their fingers.  Their fingers wander around, touching and exploring, poking themselves in the face, etc.  With those children, I'll often have them lie with both hands on their stomach, and I'll put my hand(s) over theirs, and say, "Now it's time for your hands to go to sleep.  They can lie there quietly and listen to me sing."  Sometimes I'll even take each of her hands and surround it with one of mine, to help them sleep. 

Wrap Them Up
Another thing I've tried which has worked like magic with some kids, and not so well with others, is to wrap them up fairly tight (like swaddling).  It can help them with wiggling, and makes them feel secure, but largely I think it helps them keep those little fingers still, without me having to do it for them.  To set the stage for this, start telling a story about a caterpillar who was so sleepy, and how he wrapped himself in a cocoon blanket, and when he woke, he had transformed into a beautiful butterfly.  Tell it for a few days, then one day say, "I know!  You can be like that caterpillar, and turn into a butterfly, too!"  Then get a blanket that's about the size of a large couch-throw, and with her arms at her side, wrap her fairly tightly in this special cocoon blanket Lie her down on the bed and rub her head or her body (not both; see which works better for her) while you sing to her.  When she wakes up, comment on how she has become like butterfly!  I know one LifeWays care provider who does this with all of the children in her program, and she says that it has changed the entire naptime experience.

Absorb Busy Energy
The third thing I do is to absorb 'busy' energy, and emit 'sleepy' energy.  I start doing this when I dim the lights while we're getting ready, and then I have a specific technique when they're falling asleep.  I find this to be very effective, because I don't get so annoyed when the kids are doing something (like not going to sleep).  I've found that kids have a VERY hard time falling asleep when I'm annoyed at them; I guess it makes sense that it's hard for a child to relax when there's somebody tense next to her.  Anyhow, the way I do it when they're falling asleep is by rubbing the child's back.  I start out rubbing quite firmly, and imagine all of her 'busy' energy flowing out of her body up into my arm.  I imagine that I'm doing the moving FOR her, so she doesn't have to wiggle around herself.  All of that wiggly energy that's trapped inside her can flow into my hand and up my arm.  As I feel her busy energy emptying out of her, I let my hand get slower and softer.  I start imagining sleepy energy pouring out of my arm and into her.  If I get slower and she starts to wriggle around, I get a little more firm and pull more of that energy out, then slow down again (you can do this technique with the cocoon or without).  As her body starts to relax, I get slower and slower, until my hand is still and heavy, with sleepy energy flowing into her.  When she's breathing regularly and not moving around, I slowly make my hand lighter, lifting a hair with each in-breath, until it's hovering a few inches above her, and then I allow my hand to radiate a blessing of sleep out over her, casting a protective 'net' that stays over her while she sleeps and keeps her from waking up from noises.  I've taught this energy technique to two assistants, and they've both noticed an improvement when they used it.  The main key is that you absorb 'busy' energy, and you send out 'sleepy' energy. 

Good luck!  Sleep is such a tricky issue, because everyone's patience is impaired by lack of sleep (your daughter's, your husband's, and yours).  I find that i have almost immeasurable patience if I get 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but my patience gets shorter much quickly if I get much less. Do order that book from the library if you can, I'd love to hear if it is helpful as well.

Miss Faith

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Imaginative Journeys for Mundane Tasks

Redbird tell each child to put
his cloth in the bowl

Dear Miss Faith, 
          I’ve never before had children that regularly made a fuss but at the moment I look after two brothers (just turned 3 and 4) that get upset about washing hands, having nappies (diapers) changed and having shoes put on. I always give them warning (ie. in a few minutes we can wash our hands so that we will be ready to prepare our snack) give them a choice of helping to do it themselves or I can do it and try to keep things positive and fun but quite often none of it works.  I hate having to force them to do things when they get upset but these are things that really need to be done so im not sure what else to do. If you can think of any ideas that might help us I would be grateful!
Thank you,  Karen

Hi Karen,
               If the children were smaller (say, between 1 and 3), I’d suggest doing less talking.  A child who refuses to put on his shoes when you tell him, is often fine if you simply take him by the hand and start putting on his shoes without talking about it.  Especially if you are talking about something else that’s interesting, instead.   However, your boys are older, and that probably won’t work with them.  So, there are a couple of things to do. 
One thing that can be very effective is using songs for transitions like washing hands, putting on shoes, etc.  A wonderful source for songs for these activities can be found in Mary Schunnemann’s songbook with CD, “This is the Way We Wash-A-Day” (look in the tab "Toy Stores and Song Books" above for how to get it).  But again, at three and four, these boys may be so entrenched in being against these activities that you may have to bring out the Big Guns!
The Big Guns in this case are what I’ll call Imaginative Journeys.  Three and four year olds are enthralled with imaginative stories of any kind, and these are extra fun because of the movement involved.  An Imaginative Journey is a story that you and the children act out together, that involve doing something (like washing hands or putting on shoes).  They take a lot more time than just doing the act quickly, but they’re well worth it: the children love them, and it is a sneaky way to increase competence in children who resist doing things for themselves.  Think of them as activities in their own right, like circle games.  Here are a couple examples, but you can also make up your own. 

Washing Hands After A Meal
Try washing hands at the table, using wet wash-cloths.   Start telling a story, using the cloths.  Here’s one that I use: 
Once upon a time, there was a little caterpillar.  (You wrap one hand up in the wash-cloth and start ‘crawling’ it around the table). 
This caterpillar was SOOO Hungry!  He was hungry for…Rice! (or whatever you had for lunch). 
He searched and he searched, until finally he found some! (find your other hand which is open palm-up on the table and ‘eat’ all of the rice on it, scrubbing it with the wash-cloth.) 
But he was still hungry.  ‘Maybe I’ll find some more up here,’ he said, and he crawled higher and higher (crawl up your arm) until he came to the top. 
‘There’s lots of rice here!’ he said, and he ate, and he ate and he ate (wash your whole face with the wash-cloth while you say it) until he was SOOO Full, and SOOO Sleepy. 
He wrapped himself up in a cocoon blanket, and he found a Branch (put your arm out horizontally) where he hung himself, and he fell fast asleep. (hang your caterpillar arm over your branch arm.
He slept for days and days, until one day he felt the warm sun on his back, and he wiggled and wiggled out of his cocoon, and down it fell. (put the washcloth on the table, then bring your hands up so your fists are together.) 
But he discovered that he was no longer a caterpillar; he had become a beautiful butterfly! (link your thumbs and let your fingers flutter as your butterfly flies around. The end.  Or sing a little butterfly song.)

If you are washing hands before a meal, it might be something much faster, maybe even just a song with movements to scrub each hand.  At Rainbow Bridge we wash hands before the meal with a pitcher and wash-basin at the table.  We sing a song while we do it, and wash each child's hands in turn around the table.  the children who are competent scrub their hands with soap and dry their hands on a towel; those who don't, we do it for them.  There's no discussion about it because we're singing, and each child's turn seems quite inevitable.

Putting On Shoes
Again, think about how you can make this into an imaginative journey.  The following story I just made up, thinking about what I would do in your situation.  The story you make up doesn’t have to be as long or as involved as this one, but it should be interesting enough that everyone wants to take part.  You can do the same story every day for at least a month, or significantly longer if you don’t get totally sick of it.  Here goes:  Put all of the children’s hats down in a row, about 2 feet apart, with the child’s shoes in front of it, then announce, “Today, we will do something special.  Each child may go and sit down where his hat is!”  While they’re finding their hats and sitting down, sing “Find your hat! Then sit down!  Find your hat!  Then sit down!”  Singing during this time will forestall any discussion over it.  (After the first few days, no announcement will be needed.  Simply start singing the song, and gently steer any child who doesn’t immediately run over.)  When they’re all seated, sit down in front of them all with your feet out too, and start telling a story (make sure you have your hat and shoes in your place, too).  Speak in a slow, rhythmic voice, a little deeper than your own:

Once upon a time, there were two Feet.  (Have your feet with the soles facing each other.) 
'Hello,’ said the one foot.   ‘Hello,’ said the other.  (Wiggle the toes of one foot, then the other.)
(address this next part to the children) Can your feet say hello to one another? (go back to low story-voice.)  ‘Hello,’ said the one foot.  ‘Hello,’ said the other. 
‘Nice day for a walk,’ said the one foot.  ‘Indeed it is,’ said the other.  (Wiggle toes as each one speaks.) 
’Well, where should we go?’ said the one foot.  ‘I don’t know,’ said the other. 
So they began to walk.  (Lift your knees together and have the two feet ‘walk’ on the floor in place, slowly and steadily.) 
They walked and walked and walked.  ‘I’m really cold,’ said the one foot.  ‘I’m really wet,’ said the other.  ‘Maybe we can find a cave.’ 
They looked around, and they found something that they thought would be just right.  In they went. (put both feet into your hat.  The children will think this is hilarious.  They can put their feet into their caves, too. When the feet are ‘talking’ in the cave, speak in a muffled voice.) 
’Why are you pushing me?’ said the one foot.  ‘You’re pushing Me!’ said the other.  ‘We need to find our own caves.’ And out they came. 
‘Where is a cave for me?’ said the one foot.  ‘Where is a cave for me?’ said the other. 
They walked and walked, until they saw something new.
‘Here’s a cave that’s just my size!’ said the one foot, ‘But it will be hard to fit into.  I’ll open it up as much as I can.’ (Take one shoe and open it up, pulling any laces or Velcro wide, pulling up the tongue.   Then put your foot at the entrance, and start pushing it in.) 
’I can’t fit in! I can’t fit in! Push, push, push!’ said the one foot. 
Then In-He-Went!”  (Push your foot in.  Help any children who need help, repeating, ‘I can’t fit in! I can’t fit in!  Push, push push!’ until all of the children have one shoe on.  Then go back and sit down.
(Repeat that part of the story for the second foot). 
’Now we are ready to walk,’ said the feet! 
‘I won’t be cold,’ said the one foot.  ‘I won’t be wet,’ said the next foot.  And Off-They-Went.” 
(Reach down for your hat, and pull it onto your head, giving a big, satisfied sigh to signify the end of the story.)

The secret to having these Imaginative Journeys work is to make them highly ritualistic.  Make your movements crisp and stylized, so they are easy to imitate.  Make your voice firm and compelling.  Don’t force the children to do them with you, just make them so entrancing that the children want to follow along.  If a child doesn’t do it, you can give a little help to nudge them along, or repeat part of the story (like when I say, “Can your feet say hello to each other?”), but don’t take so much time away that you lose the interest of the rest of the children.  If a child doesn’t take part in the hand and face washing, for example, I will quickly wipe his hands and face for him as I’m picking up the cloths.  If he objects, I calmly state, “Next time you can do the story with us, and then I won’t have to wipe your face afterward.”

Other Strategies
If the idea of Imaginative Journeys is too much for you, then think about different ways that you can make these experiences special.  For example, I know one woman with a home daycare, and at the end of each meal, she calls each child up to her one by one, and she slowly and lovingly wipes each child’s face and hands, and brushes off any food from his clothing, then gives him a hug, and he can go and play.  She loves it because it's a chance for her to connect with each child.  Or sometimes I’ll play funny games with the cloths, where we hold them flat against our mouths and I ask funny questions (“Are we all wearing our bathing suits right now?”) That everyone can answer “Nooooo!” and shake their heads back and forth, wiping their mouths.  The trick is to make it so fun, or so sweet, that children don’t want to refuse.  It’s not a means to an end, it’s an end in itself!

Miss Faith

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Starting Daycare and Saying Goodbye

Dear Miss Faith,
               My little guy is starting daycare and while I’m sure that it will be a wonderful, loving place for him, I am dreading dropping him off and saying goodbye.  We have had a hard time with babysitters lately.  Do you have any advice for helping it go smoothly?

Dear Mama,
               Yes!  I have helped many families adjust to saying goodbye for the first time, and what I’ve seen is this:  the thing that makes the most difference for a child is the parent’s attitude.  When a parent feels bad that a child is crying, and lingers as a result, children often continue crying for a long time, even after the parent has managed to drag herself away.  I think that when a parent does this, the message she is sending is, “I don’t want to leave you here, but I have to.”  The way the child interprets this is,  “Mom doesn’t want to leave me here; I AM NOT SAFE HERE.”    
The biggest gift you can give your child is to say, with every ounce of your being, “I am leaving you in the best of hands.”  You don’t have to say this out loud; transmit it through your actions, through your attitude.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t acknowledge his feelings: it’s hard to watch you leave!  You can be compassionate without feeling guilty for causing the grief. “I know that saying goodbye is hard, AND I know that you’ll have a good time while I’m gone.  I love you so much, and I am leaving you in the best of hands.”

But what if I AM feeling guilty?  It is heart-wrenching to walk away when my little one is crying his heart out and reaching out to me. 
It seems like one more hug could only help, right?  But no.  Remember, you know that this is going to be a wonderful, loving place for him.  You told me that in your letter.  That’s why you chose this place.  So, if that is true, then being there won’t be a hardship for him; it’s only the process of watching you leave that is hard.  In that case, the longer you draw out the process of leaving, the longer you’re drawing out his feelings of unhappiness.  Be loving, and firm in your knowledge that this is the best choice for your family, and say goodbye.  If you go out to your car and cry, that’s OK.  This is a big transition for both of you.  But don’t let those guilty feelings make your son’s separation even harder than it needs to be. (One thing that can help is to ask your caretaker to call you if he hasn’t stopped crying after a certain amount of time.)

I tried doing what you said, but he runs after me and latches onto my legs, so the caretaker has to pull him off of me.  That feels terrible!
I bet that feels terrible for everyone!  It sounds like your little guy may feel safer with a ‘hand-off.’  Hold him while you’re coming in, and when it’s time to go, put him into the arms of his caretaker.  Then blow a kiss and wave goodbye.  It’s important that you’re handing him over to the caretaker, so that she doesn’t have to be in the position of pulling him away from you.  Remember, you want to be giving your son the message that you are making a good decision and he will be safe here. 

On the first day, drop-off was OK, but it seems like it’s getting worse and worse. 
My experience is that the first day is often deceptively easy, because your child doesn’t know what’s in store!  Then days two, three and four get worse and worse, as he starts to realize that this is a regular thing!  But by day five he has started to bond with his caretaker, so it's a little better, and day six is a little better still.  Once that bond is established there may still be some crying, but he should be easily comforted by his caretaker after you leave.  If your child is only going two days a week, this process might be a little bit slower, as it will take him more time to bond with someone he is not seeing as frequently. 
So, know that learning to say goodbye is a process, and don’t lose faith!  Continue letting him know that you are leaving him in the best of hands, and don’t draw out the process of saying goodbye.     If your child is still really having a hard time after this period, make some time (not at drop-off!) to talk to your caretaker.  How long does he cry after you leave?  Is he bonding with her and with any of the other children?  If he's not bonding well, it may be that being in a big group is overwhelming for him still, and he'd do better with a sitter or a nanny at home.  Many children are not ready to be in a group setting without mom until they are at least three years old.  If it seems that he IS bonding with her, ask if there’s anything you could be doing differently, that would help his transition.  She may well have some ideas.
Miss Faith

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Monday, October 3, 2011

hitting smaller children

Hi Miss Faith,
First, congratulations. I hope you and your partner had a great honeymoon. I didn't change my last name until I was 3 years into marriage (I didn't think I ever was going to change it, but had a change of heart).
               In any case, we're having challenges with my 2 1/2 year old being physically aggressive with her peers. Sometimes it's 'out of nowhere' which makes it all the more baffling. In other words, I understand more when she grabs, pushes, pinches, etc. to get something, but am worried about where it's coming from (even when the cause is evident). She doesn't do this with older children (even slightly older). She is very verbal (and did this before she was verbal - I saw your post about that) and has always been on the higher energy side. She didn't do any of it this summer (despite ample opportunity) but now has started up again, even pushing babies down, etc.! Any tips or insight is appreciated!

Hi Jennifer,
              While most toddlers love 'babies,' I have had several children who were naturally aggressive to children who were smaller than they were, and their moms (and I) had to work extra hard with those children as they learned impulse control.  My heart goes out to you!  Don’t worry too much about “where this is coming from.”  She is not destined to grow up to be a bully, and nor is it necessarily a commentary on your parenting.  I firmly believe that some children come into the world timid, and some come in with guns blazing; it’s our role as parents and caregivers to help all of them learn behavior skills that will serve them well as they interact with others.  That being said, it’s worth asking the basic questions:  Does she have a regular routine and consistent boundaries so that she knows what is coming up next and what’s expected?  Does she have a nurturing home environment (you aren’t remodeling your house, are you?) and get lots of loving attention from you (no new baby in the family)?  If these things aren’t as strong as they could be, then do put some attention into them.  
               My main long-term suggestion is to help your little girl develop the virtue of Empathy.  2 ½ is a great age to start working on this, as it’s the age when children first start to really be able to live in to someone else’s experiences.  Here are a few ways you can help her as she begins this process:

Start Noticing Others
               Start noticing out loud how other children are expressing their feelings, and start a conversation with your daughter about what they might want/need.  I find it’s more useful for kids if I describe their feelings through actions, rather than simply labeling “he’s sad” or “he’s angry.”  So, in the grocery store you might say, “Look, that little boy is so loud!  He threw that box of cereal!  What do you think he wishes?  Maybe he wishes that they were done shopping.”  Then imagine what could help:  “I bet he could really use some hugs and kisses from his mom right now.”  This type of noticing can help your daughter start feeling empathy.  With children that your daughter knows, you might make some suggestions about how you two might help.  Say you see a little boy crying at drop-off time at their play-group or the gym childcare.  “Look, Liam is crying.  He’s pulling on his mom.  I bet he wishes his mom could stay.”  Then, make a suggestion of how you two might help:  “Do you think he might like it if we gave him a toy?  What kind of toys does Liam like?”  Then the two of you could help find a toy together, and offer it to Liam.   If Liam takes the toy and likes it, you can celebrate your success with your daughter with a joyful smile.  If he doesn’t want it, you might say, “We wanted to help Liam be happy by giving him a toy, but he wasn’t ready to be happy yet.  Maybe we can play with him later.”  The next step is to help her relate his experience with her own (but don’t be too heavy with this):  “Are you sometimes sad when I leave you with the babysitter?”

Help Your Daughter Notice How Others React to Her
               Also start noticing out loud how children are responding to your daughter’s interactions with them, and you can even speak for those children if they’re not very verbal yet.  If your daughter is approaching someone smaller who she has hurt in the past, watch how they react:  “Oh, Tina’s turning away.  She’s saying, ‘please touch me gently.’”  If she does touch Tina gently, you might say, “Look!  She’s smiling!  She likes how you’re touching her!”  If she touches Tina and Tina flinches and pulls away, you could say, “Tina’s saying, ‘please stop.’  I don’t think she wants even gentle touches today.  Maybe you could try finding a toy for her, instead.” I use this type of noticing at Rainbow Bridge all the time, and it’s quite effective in helping children learn to notice the effects of their actions.  Also, when I ‘speak’ for the smaller child in this way, when that child starts to talk, he or she will often use the words that I’ve been using for all that time, instead of simply shrieking (an added bonus!).

A Special Doll
          Dolls can play a real and vital role for children as they process what they’ve experienced, and experience new roles in fantasy.  I can often tell what’s going on at home by how children interact with our dolls:  a girl with a colicky baby at home paced the playroom with the baby doll for a full 20 minutes, shushing her lovingly.  Another little girl gave the doll many Time Outs. Get a special baby doll for your daughter, and make this baby really come alive.  Introduce her with a special name, and hold her like you’d hold a real baby.  Teach your daughter how to hold her, how to care for her.  Treat her as much like a real baby as you can.  Attribute feelings to her.  If you see her on the floor, say “Oh no!  Baby Rosie has fallen down!  She’s crying!”  Run over and scoop Baby Rosie off the floor, saying, “Don’t cry!  I’ll give you hugs and kisses!”  Pat her like you would a real baby, then pass her over to your daughter, saying, “I think she’d like some hugs from you, too.”  Make putting Baby Rosie to bed part of your daughter’s bedtime ritual, where she can tuck her in and give her a kiss.
               Books or stories that you make up can also be very useful.  I often make up ‘teaching stories’ for children about woodland creatures who are experiencing what the children are going through.  So in this case, since we’re working on empathy, it might be a little boy chipmunk who had a friend who was rough with him, and while he wanted to see his friend, he was scared he’d get hurt, and he stopped wanting his friend to come over anymore.  I NEVER compare the story out loud to what’s happening in real life; the children simply soak it in.

Set Her Up for Success
               Helping your daughter start to develop her sense of empathy is a longer-term solution to your problem.  By the time she’s three I bet you’ll see a marked improvement, and by 3 ½ it should hopefully be gone (although it may come back in times of stress).  In the meantime, do your best to put your daughter in situations where she can thrive and develop healthy patterns.  Limit her interactions with smaller children as much as is practical for the next few months.  Make a conscious effort to arrange play-dates with children who are slightly older than her for the next few months (2 ½ year-olds often LOVE four-year-olds).  If you’re going to be with a family who has a littler child she has hurt in the past, perhaps bring your daughter’s new doll along with you, for her to nurture.  And stay right on top of her as she interacts with any child who is littler than she is, helping her see if they’re liking what she’s doing.
          Another piece of setting her up for success is to step things up a notch.  I've noticed that many children at two-and-a-half suddenly need More than they were getting before:  more structured activities (trips to the zoo or the creek, crafts, baking), more exercise (races, climbing, jumping), more expectations of helping, and more appreciation for showing the skills she's developed when she does help.  If they don't get this More that they crave, they have trouble.  And hang in there!  You’ve got a strong-willed little girl on your hands, but an empathetic, respectful, strong-willed girl will be a pleasure to be around for the rest of her life.  So help her develop these virtues.

Miss Faith

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