tend to the victim first
As parents we all witness countless scuffles among young playmates and siblings. When a child is injured, most of us would agree on the importance of caring for the injured party first and sorting out “who started it” later. In addition, there are two situations where tending to the victim first (and ignoring the perpetrator) can be a dramatic game-changer: when a child (particularly one’s own) is being aggressive to get attention, and when kids are fighting over a toy. When a child becomes the aggressor to gain adult attention, tending to the victim first really alters the dynamic by taking the power out of the behavior that was meant to get a reaction. When a child sees the adult tending to the victim and not focusing on them, she will be encouraged to move onto other (hopefully more positive) methods of getting noticed. And then there is the very common situation of two children fighting over a toy. One tactic we’ve used with success is to animate the toy (i.e., the toy becomes the “victim”) and give it your attention in a very dramatic way. By doing so you can offer children a new perspective, and teach a lesson about respect and behavior that may just find a deeper understanding than if you had corrected or reprimanded them directly.
One day at preschool I witnessed two girls fighting over a doll—an all-out tug of war. One was pulling her hair and the other pulling her legs. Rather than addressing the children and admonishing them to stop and share, a teacher gasped loudly (so now many children turned their heads) and ran over saying, “Oh, poor Dolly! Oh, my! You come with me, are you okay? You must need a little rest!” She took the doll and walked to the other side of the room, cradling her and saying soothing things. Boy, did that diffuse the tiff! —n