Teaching Empathy: Lessons from the 4 Year Old
My darling Little One toddled over to me, bright pink boots in hand. “Boot!” She said, pointing. “You want to wear your boots?” Emphatic nodding ensued. How could I explain to her that we don’t wear boots in the house because it makes the floors dirty? I knew better than to try, and used the distract and redirect technique. Or tried to anyway, numerous times. But to no avail. This kid wanted to wear her boots! I finally gave up, putting the boots away and offering her slippers or shoes. She chose neither (I didn’t know she’d already have the option figured out!”). I walked away mildly frustrated, knowing I had to get breakfast started and fully expecting her to enter the kitchen wearing her shiny pink boots in about 10 minutes.
My Middle One had observed this scene from the bottom set of stairs. He now ambled over to the Little One, who was presumably busy getting her boots back out. Here’s what I heard:
Aww, you want to wear your boots?
Mommy said no boots inside the house. LO really wants to wear her boots. You love your boots. Mommy said no boots inside. Want to wear your slippers?
These slippers or these slippers? See, mommy is wearing her slippers. And me, I’m wearing slippers. And Big One is wearing her slippers. Not daddy, no, daddy is at work. He’s wearing shoes. But in the house we can all wear slippers.
Slight whimpering ensues.
I know, you want to wear your boots. LO is sad. LO wants to wear her boots. Here, let’s put them away. LO needs to wear slippers. Just like Middle One. Time to wear our slippers! I will help you…
One foot. Yes! Now the other. Great job, LO! You’re wearing your slippers!!!
I had a proud mama moment, that’s for sure!