“I’ll Help You Wait” Makes a Friendship Possible

red ballI held a small parent/child playtime for parents of children who were under three. One little girl I’ll call Anna was brought by her two parents, who also had her baby brother in their arms.

During the Special Time portion of the playtime, Anna’s father began paying full attention to her. She immediately began running around the play space loudly chanting “Baby! Baby! Baby! Baby!” over and over again. It was easy to conclude that she was announcing the issue that was most on her mind. 

After Special Time, another girl, whom Anna had totally ignored happened to be playing with a red ball. It was one of three balls that were identical, except for their colors. Anna went over and whined that she wanted the red ball. I told her gently that she could have it when the child was finished with it, and I said she could play with the two other balls available. She took in my answer, and began to scream.

Her father came over and held her while she curled into a ball in his arms, screamed at the top of her lungs, and cried. She went back and forth from kicking and screaming to sobbing and burrowing into him. I stayed close, to support him. Together, we listened to her feelings, and now and then we told her we would stay with her while she wanted the ball Ginger was playing with. She cried hard for about 20 minutes. Then, she looked out and saw that Ginger had finished with the red ball, and was playing with some cardboard blocks.

Anna wiped her eyes, and, finally free of that load of feelings, went over and gently, thoughtfully entered into play with Ginger. The red ball was of no interest to either of them. They spent the next half hour playing together, sharing easily and laughing lots. Not once did Anna show possessiveness over sharing space or sharing the big pillow with a Daddy under it that they were sitting on and falling off for fun. She had had her good cry, she had gotten her father’s listening and attention, and her needs had been met. With her improved confidence, she made a friend.

– Patty Wipfler

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