When my two little cousins, ages three and one-and-a-half, came to live with me for several months, I learned that sometimes the adults they came in contact with were not that thoughtful about how to connect. This was true of one of my neighbors, who would say things to the children that often provoked an angry response from the three-year-old, who didn’t want to engage in conversation. I felt badly for my young cousin, and at the same time embarrassed by her direct reproach of my neighbor.
One Saturday morning an opportunity presented itself to turn things around. She and I were outside our apartment in the courtyard having Special Time, and her favorite game at the time was Simon Says. She loved being able to tell me what to do and watching me put my hands up or stomp my feet in response to her commands.
Our neighbor heard us playing and came outside to see what was going on. I took the risk of asking him to join us in a game of Simon Says, and explained to him how to play it. Sure enough, he stomped his feet, turned around or moved his hands based on her requests. She squealed with laughter at watching our neighbor respond to her direction. And he seemed pleasantly surprised to see her laughing instead of getting angry at him.
After this interaction with him, she became interested in knowing his name and was happy to see him on other days. He seemed to understand much better that engaging in play was a good way to interact with young people and started coming outside with a ball, which both children enjoyed.
– By Ellie Hidalgo, Los Angeles, California