Storytime at the library was a little bit rough for Etta this morning. There were glue sticks out on the craft table, and all she wanted to do was glue glue glue. I was letting her sit over there instead of with the group, since she was being quiet, but when I noticed her gluing a paper bat to the table, I had to step in and take away the glue stick. That’s when she got angry. Since other kids were still trying to sing songs and hear the story, I carried her out into the hallway.
I sat down on her level. “Are you mad?” “Etta mad!” “I know you’re mad. It makes you mad when Mama says you can’t play with something that you want to play with, but I can’t let you glue things to the table. We can take a break out here for a little bit, or we can go back inside and sing songs with our friends. You can decide.”
We sat on the floor for a while, her refusing to look at me, me waiting. It maybe took 2 minutes. “Potty?” she asked. “Sure, we can potty, and then we can go back in with our friends.” We got the potty situation taken care of and went back inside. She did fine for 15 minutes, and then I had to take away the glue stick again (glue is the worst), which led to some serious tears sobbed prostrate on the floor. I again sat next to her. “I know you’re mad. It’s OK to feel mad, but I can’t let you play with the glue and make a mess in the library.” I sang her a song from Daniel Tiger, lyrics changed from “sad:” “It’s ok to feel mad sometimes, little by little, you’ll feel better again.” She went and got a hug from one of our friends, and soon she was back to playing.
Later, toward the end of storytime, another little toddler buddy was having a hard time. And you know what Etta did? She went over and offered him a hug. She tried to wipe away his tears. She actually sang him the Daniel Tiger song.
At that moment, I knew I’m doing something right. Validating her feelings, allowing her to feel them and not fear them, giving her space to express them, but still holding firm on limits– this isn’t just helping her learn to manage her emotions, but it’s also helping her to relate to her tiny buddies with empathy, possibly one of the biggest values I want to pass on to my kids.
I’m not an expert. I’m not giving you advice. I don’t always get it right, and I don’t always model empathy, patience, and emotional intelligence as well as I want to. But it turns out, screwing up and apologizing is modeling another kind of behavior I want my kids to learn too.
I will say, I’ve recommended “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids” to so many friends now, it’s probably time I plugged it on the blog as well. Because it seems to be working for us right now. Etta basically told me so this morning.