Ella is…exuberant. Her motto is why walk, when you can run, and why run, when you can do cartwheels? Everything is a mile a minute when she’s happy…and when she’s upset, overwhelmed, tired, hungry or has any other external stimulus.
The more excited she gets, the faster she goes. She can’t calm down. She doesn’t know how, and to date we haven’t figured out how to help her. But recently we did find a solution when she was playing with her new best friend, J, the boy next-door.
He wanted to sit in the boat (box) and drive it, she wanted to crash into the boat and sink it. He wasn’t having fun, she was. Her laughter danced across the sunlit backyard, warming us. He kept looking to me. I suspect he wanted me to tell Ella to stop. But I didn’t. I also don’t think I should have. I believe it would make the immediate situation worse (due to her reaction) and I believe the long-term friendship would suffer.
Did I just let her continue? No.
I walked over and squatted down to their level. I inquired if they were having fun.
J said in a small voice, “No.” Ella very enthusiastically said, “Yes.”
Then told them what I saw.
“I see a little girl with a smile on her face. She’s jumping around. I see a little boy with a sad face, he’s sitting down.”
I continued, “I think Ella wants to play something where she can jump around.” She nodded. “I think J wants to play something where he can sit down, but not have someone hitting his boat.”
He smiled really big and said, “Yes.”
“Hmm. It seems we have a problem. Let’s think of a solution. How can we play where you’ll both have fun playing together?”
J stared at me a moment, then a smile tugged at his lips and said, “I’ll think of one.”
In the end I offered a solution they both liked: J would drive a boat and feed the dolphins fish. Ella would be the dolphin jumping for fish. It took a few moments talking to them both before they figured out, together, what the rules would be while playing together. I never dictated to them, they were involved in the decision making from the start. Also no one got in trouble.
They continued playing for the next twenty minutes without needing anyone to help them. They had the tools they needed to figure things out for the rest of their playdate.
I’m sure other situations will arise, but a similar approach will help the two friends learn how to play together respectfully.