Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday SOL - How to handle this?

Jack brings a special toy to school, against his mother's wishes.
He is picked up early and can't find his toy at the end of the day.
His mother is upset,
"This is why we don't bring special toys from home."
They search and search the classroom.
To no avail.
It is curious to me.
Yes, the room is large,
and the toy is small.
However, hmmm,
this toy should be here.

His mother adds,
"Well, you've learned your lesson now. You won't bring toys from home anymore."
I let this comment slide.
But I disagree.
It is a rare three year old that learns the lesson of not bringing toys from home.
That is an adult notion, to leave special things at home.
Threes need their special things with them.

The child goes home.
I sit for a minute, still thinking,
How odd.

Yes, the room is large,
and the toy is small.
However, hmmm,
this toy should be here.

I think of three children who love this toy and I go through their cubbies.  
Shame on me, I was suspicious.
Carefully sequestered inside a lunchbox is the special toy.

I go right over to the lunchbox owner.
"Look at this," I say, as calmly as I can muster, and I show him the contents.
"Oh, yes.  I am going to play trains now."
"You get to play trains after you talk to me. Why is this toy in here?"
"I put it in there.  It is Jack's."
"I appreciate your honesty; you are right, this is Jack's.  Did you hear Jack and his mother looking for this?  Did you see how sad Jack was when he couldn't find it?"
"I just don't understand, sweetie.  This isn't yours.  You don't have the right to take home toys of other people without asking them, first."
"Let's go over to the writing table and write Jack an 'I'm sorry' card, let's tell him that you are sorry you took his toy without asking."

He draws a picture and I write the words and we put the letter in Jack's cubby.  Later, I rethink the situation and decide to tear the apology up.  I am uncomfortable with Jack's mother thinking poorly of  this child, thinking "this is a child who steals."  
I wonder if most three year olds are children who steal?
I wonder if it isn't perfectly natural to imagine a new special something as yours?
To take it?

I will simply tell Jack's family that I "found" the toy and give it back tomorrow.  I won't mention how it was found.

This is the stuff that keeps me awake at night!
How do you teach the lessons about
respecting one another, respecting one another's property
with the right amount of seriousness, yet the right enough understanding for their developmental age?

Developmentally, this "taker" is right on with his succinct and open "I put it in there. It is Jack's."
It makes perfect sense to a three year old - I want it, I take it.

This little friend, who is hiding things in his lunchbox, is learning
it is not all about him. 
If he was learning his ABC's, I'd give him a little more time and space,
I'd let him slip up and forget,  I'd help him "do over."

Why should social-emotional learning be any different?


  1. Hopefully Jack's Mom won't read your blog! ;) Very well done... amazed you're able to blog with such frequency!

  2. Well, the child's name is fictitious; I hope "Mom" sees how we need to keep perspective on the child's development...and we need to expect children to make lots of mistakes as they learn. Thanks for commenting, Ralph! I am really enjoying my blogging these days....

  3. Hmmm this is something to think about. Teaching right from wrong...like I said a real thinker..thanks!

    1. It is complicated, isn't it? You wonder if you are doing the right thing. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Oooh. This makes me think of "Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie." Do you know this book? I love how the child in question is actually NOT lying! But this book might help kids empathize with how the loser might feel, and how to 'fess up with grace...


    1. Thank you for this book idea! I am not familiar with it - but I'm going to check it out. It seems so perfect!

  5. I think you hit it on the head, he needed a "do over." Those words are so comforting to little ones who are still figuring this world out of fair, mine, yours, justice...I'm not sure us adults have figured it all out! Your understanding and intrigue with the way your "three's" minds work is amazing, some would have handled that completely "differently" and never had another thought about it. You are right, "you have learned you lesson," is something us adults say to make ourselves feel better, and has nothing to do with anyone else. We can only define a lesson learned for ourselves, rarely is someone else able to determine this.

  6. Hi Maureen, you seem very wise. I would not want to label a child so young. He saw it & wanted to play longer with it. You talked with him and maybe he'll remember for next time. I have a 3 year old granddaughter, who is learning rules & ways of life every single minute, at home, in the world, at her preschool. Actually, because it happened, it was a learning for this little boy, that you ask before you take someone else's things. That's it-a life rule only, no labels. Teachers make such hard decisions every day, don't they? And your pondering about it shows what a thoughtful teacher you are.

  7. What if you act out the story with props with the lunchbox owner, Jack , and a few others in a small group? I wonder what ideas/thoughts they might have about REALLLY wanting to play with something so badly you hide it as well as REALLLLY being sad their special toy is missing.
    They might just come up with some ideas for these situations. Or at least they will all feel "felt."
    Your ability to stay calm and thoughtful is just a ray of light. I love that you wrote about your thought process.
    And PS I agree with ripping up the note, he does not need to be shamed.Thanks for posting this very common scenario with love and kindness.