Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ego in Children

Yesterday I witnessed, what we normally call ego.
One of the kids (my favorite : I know we shouldnt have favorites but what to do? I like her so much just like that!) was sitting on my lap while we were playing rhymes using the CD player. She slowly took the remote from my hand and started holding it. (She probably felt like being the one in control) I let her be as it is while all of us were enjoying the rhymes. Then one of the other kids saw the remote in her hand and came forwards and started pulling it from her hand. So I stopped her and took the remote from both of them and said since you are fighting for it, I wont give it to either of you. Then the kid on my lap pushed the other kid with her hand in anger.
I immediately told her no and asked her to say sorry. She just stared hard at that girl. Then I told the other girl to say sorry as she was the one to start the fight. She said sorry immediately. I turned back to this kid and told her she has told you sorry and now its your turn because you pushed too. She just kept staring angrily but refused to say sorry.
I kept persuading her saying it was okay to say sorry etc etc but she simply refused.
Then I told her, I wont take you down if you arent going to say sorry. I started collecting the children's bags and asked the other children to come with me in the other room to go down. I tried once again asking her to say sorry but she was just fuming. Then we just went out the room when she started howling! I went back to her and consoled her and took her down. I just didnt know how to make her let go of the anger. She clung on and cried for 5 minutes. When the sobbing stopped, I tried once again (yes I just cant let go of such things.. somehow they are very important to me). She finally relented and said sorry. I took her to the other girl and asked her to say sorry to her. She said it again using the name. After that she was fine. A bit grumpy but otherwise okay.
I'm not sure if I did the right thing by insisting so many times and making her cry. What is your opinion?


  1. That was a lesson learned. May be as she grows, this incident she may never rememeber but it may change the way she deals with people who have wronged her, and she may be ready to forgive them.

    The future you may never know, but we can do our best to try to make it bright and then hope for the best!

    Well done Anj.

  2. That's a tough one. Apologizing (and meaning it) is a grown up behavior and most of the children in my class are not developmentally at the stage when they realize that other people have feelings too. My training instructors used to tell us, "Children learn to apologize when they see trusted adults apologizing". In other words, we need to model expected behavior.

    This is why I usually don't insist that my kids apologize to each other. I use gentle prompts such as "It is nice to say you are sorry when you hurt someone, even if it is an accident". If the child still doesn't apologize, I will say to the other child "I am sorry you were hurt. When you are ready to play with (offending party) you can let them know." I will then direct the child who hasn't apologized to their own work and plan future peace education lessons.

    I currently have a child in my class who thinks it is OK do whatever he wants (including bothering and hurting other children) as long as he says he is sorry after the misbehavior. He treats sorry as though it were a "Get out of jail free" card! I would much rather guide a child to learning how to say sorry with meaning than to work with a child who uses sorry as an empty promise.

    Whichever path is chosen, we know we are doing what we feel is best at the time! (Sorry about the long winded response:)

  3. Wow! Thats a good perspective, I didn't think about it that way. Yes sometimes when I feel a child hasnt done something on purpose, I dont insist on apologizing and I tell the victim a sorry instead. Yes, I've seen some older kids in my school who use sorry so often that it has no meaning except to get away from doing anything wrong. Will keep it in mind.
    Today a similar thing happened with an older girl and she called someone selfish. I said thats not a nice thing to say, and you must say sorry. The other child did act selfishly, so I asked him to apologize first. When he did, she also did after a while.
    But the problem is if they dont understand what sorry means, how will they stop doing the thing which we dont want them to do? If a child does a mistake and doesnt feel for it, what do we do?

  4. Whenever a situation arises that needs me to intervine...I let both children say what they must. I will then ask, " what must you ask to make this better?" The children in turns ask, "what can I do to make you feel better?" The child who has been hurt then decides. If they don't know how to respond I will give examples like sorry, or a hug, or you can say "don't do that again".

    I will role play different situations at the beginning of the year. Children tend to catch on quickly & it's very positive in how to treat others' feelings. I definately don't make them say sorry...but if children aren't willing to take care of feelings & are still in angry mode then they can hang out with me for bit. I'll have the angered child observe how others are taking care of one another.

    Every situation is different, you probably took care of it the best way.

  5. I am not a parent or a teacher and do not have any active interface to children. However i am currently a tender-foot lead of a team of green-horn software programmers... and i have experienced the issue of conflict, both internal and external, arise in my team.
    Time and again, as i tried to play God and resolve the conflict by intervening as a higher keeper-of-the-rules, i felt that something is always felt left-out, un-mended after the conflict is seemingly resolved. More recently, i realized that solving both personal and external conflict has to deal with bringing empathy into play.. a huge amount of it.
    This person, who shall effect the resolution, has to understand the process of conflict, its possible outcomes and non-intrusively guide the scenario (and not the players) into a non-combatant, neutral scenario, where sanity has a say.
    Pretty much like one's own anger... i have been famous for my outbursts... till the time i found that breaking things and then mending them is sometimes hard but mostly impossible.
    A better approach is to weather the storm, with no participation, no anxiety or weariness, just like a day's work and more often than not, the tension eases out... like in a stretching session after a hard work-out.

    In the same beat, i'd like to say that acting-the-philosopher is such waste of time, instinct is the best judge in a live situation... but then, so is reflecting back on the day's work.