So much of social coaching involves teaching kids how to use coping strategies, building inner resilience, and learning that life isn’t always fair and that people are not going to always do what you want them to do.
These social scenarios turn up frequently here during coaching. Just today, we were working with kids on the fact that no matter how much you wanted an item that someone else was using or a turn on an activity that had a waiting line, these are situations you cannot and will not be able to have your own way. This is where we patiently and firmly work on the necessary life skill of being able to deal.
In other, rarer, instances, expecting a child to cope with something isn’t fair. In some circumstances, we realize that we adults need to step in and form a protective bubble around a child and a particular issue. There are times when accommodating a child far outweighs our thoughts about a life lesson.
One day last week at my summer program, the kids were playing in the big dirt pile (a huge hit around here). A few of the older boys (8-10ish) found a couple of plush Mikey Mouse toys in the tent that I had picked up for free at the transfer station. They developed some complex imaginary revolution game that involved asking if they could bury the toys in the dirt pile. At the time, I didn’t see any harm in allowing them to do that.
That was until, one of our littlest boys that week, saw what they were doing and became very, very, upset. Despite us assuring him that they were just old toys, he grew more and more tearful and angry and got to a place where things would have grown unsafe. We were able to keep the scenario from escalating, but we weren’t able to help him move past it. I hated to, but we all thought it best that he take a break from camp the rest of the morning and come back the next day, even though that wasn’t a fair solution based on the circumstances. In the meantime, I suspected, and I was right as confirmed by his mom, that Mickey is a very special character for him.
This is not something that a child needs to learn how to cope with. This is where the grown-ups step in and offer a protective bubble. I got rid of the Mickey toys that night, and when the kids asked for them the next day, we talked about caring about other people, and that sometimes, that requires us to make a small sacrifice on our part. That would be great if all kids understood that, but a few were upset that we had stopped that game for them and tried to make things a little difficult for the younger boy. Each time that occurred, I or one of my staff would physically put ourselves in a protective bubble position around him until we had all gotten past it (which didn’t take long).
Today we built an adult protective bubble around another younger boy who is a dinosaur expert. Two of the older boys are also well-versed in paleontology, and while you think this might be a great set-up, there was conflict about who was right or wrong about dinosaur facts. This was very upsetting to the younger boy, and while in this instance, I did weave in some coping strategies, at the same time, I did form a bubble around him to keep the other boys from creating a greater need to cope than the one we are already handling.
In most situations that pop up between kids, learning the ability to cope will help them build better relationships, become more resilient as they mature, and be able to navigate life when we aren’t available and protect themselves from bullies. At other times, we need to provide that protection for them.
Leave a Reply