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Cooperation Counts

  • Connecting With Kid Agony

    upset child

    Image Credit: Melissa Segal

    by Jean Hamburg, LICSW

    Kids of all ages can get crabby very easily, and so can the adults.  This is a recipe for a LOT of crabbiness and begs for a solution, but one that can avoid War. The following is a true story in a family therapy session:


    The problem:  Susan, age 6, was sensitive about everything, and the slightest thing would set her off.  Over time Susan and her parents began to actually believe that she could not help herself, but if that turned out to be true it would be a long life for everyone.


    Enter Susan’s 3 year old sister Sasha who was the Queen of Getting Her Own Way, and while this was pretty much age appropriate, the Susan and Sasha combo often led to Large Scale Skirmishes.


    The scene: Sasha had a pair of kid friendly scissors she was using to make a flower.  Suddenly Susan grabbed the scissors away from her sister. Sasha registered her objection loudly and so did Susan!


    One solution: Connecting with Kid Agony Strategy


    1) Dad was encouraged to respond to crying/escalating Susan while refraining from the temptation to scold her for ‘the grab’.  Instead he was encouraged to head in this direction:  “Oh no.  You really wanted those scissors and Sasha did too.  Now you’re both upset!.. It’s so hard when Sasha  wants what you   It’s just not fair!” As Dad was connecting with Susan’s ‘agony’ he wanted  to find a way that the kids wouldn’t stay stuck in their joint fury.  He offered a favorite snack to Very Upset Susan who wanted the snack but dove under the couch leaving the scissors on the table.   Dad:  “Wow!  How amazing.  You went under the couch to take space from the trouble.  Double wow!  Here’s your snack.”

    When Susan came out from under the couch and began to eat, Sasha saw her opportunity to grab the scissors that had been left on the table!  Susan continued to eat her snack- now uninterested in the previously very important scissors!

    2) Mom:  “This doesn’t help anything.  Sasha got what she wanted and she needs to learn that she can’t always get her own way.


    Meanwhile:  Sasha was happily making her flower and Susan was enjoying her snack.  Both were quiet and had moved on, but Mom wanted to teach the lesson- right then and there.


    Jean:  “Let’s remember that Sasha is 3 and her job is to put in a good effort to get what she wants…when she wants it.  And if she can upset her sister while doing so, she is likely pretty proud of herself.


    Nothing ever gets settled when anyone is upset- no matter how tempting it might be to teach the lesson right  then and there. The time for mentioning anything about grabbing, teasing, taunting, etc. is when everyone is calm.


    Furthermore, the all-important point can be achieved by catching the kids making good choices  like when one or both of the kids just happen to ask nicely for an item the other one has, or if someone offers to share something.


    And when everyone is calm we might remember the event in story form like “I remember this afternoon when Susan decided to grab the scissors from Sasha when she was trying to make a flower.  I remember you both ended up really angry with each other, but Susan I also remember how you decided to dive under the couch to take space when you were so upset!  And I remember that you both decided to settle down- Sasha, you made your flower and Susan, you enjoyed your snack.  Way to go girls !!!”


    Peace is a good enough goal and connecting with kid agony can be a nice way to head in that pleasant direction.


    Contact Jean for consultation options at: jeanhamburg@comcast.net __1-877-813-0004

    Cooperation Counts (sm) is a service of Jean Hamburg, LICSW

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