A kindergarten child ran out of the class recently heading for the playground when he discovered his teacher did not bring his special rock into the class after recess. I went outside to help the teacher who was with him. At first he was reluctant to come close to us as he must have felt that we would not be open to him coming out to retrieve a rock ( actually a large chunk of concrete). I reassured him he was not in trouble. I told him I wanted him to do up his jacket (he was clutching the rock) so he wouldn’t be cold. I said I wouldn’t take his rock. He must have been getting more comfortable with me as he complied and I did up his coat.
He was in kindergarten so the teacher and I could easily have tried to imposed our will by simply taking the rock and leading him into class. This would have disregulated him, and us, and taught him nothing other than we were bigger and stronger. Instead I tried a modified Plan B conversation with him, trying to understand what was happening and why the rock was important to him. He didn’t offer much more than simply saying it was his rock, he found it in the summer and he wanted to take it into class. I thought I’d made some progress as he did engage in a conversation with me. I told him my concern was for his safety and learning. I didn’t want him to leave the class because we wanted to make sure he was always safe, it was important to be dressed properly when he was outside. I also wanted him to be in the class learning with his classmates. I asked him if we could do some problem solving to come up with ideas to keep him safe and learning and so he could keep his rock. His ideas was simply to bring the rock into the class and take it home. I asked if I could suggest something and eventually he said yes. I suggested he could bring the rock in if the teacher could put it on display so he and other kids could use the magnifying glasses to look for fossils. We could also call mom and let her know that she could pick up the rock to take it home when she picked him up after school, if he still wanted it. We then both decided these ideas worked for us and the teacher said they were also good for her. The ideas were easily doable for us all. We all walked back into the school with the child clutching his rock. He gave it to the teacher for display and he joined the class.
The Plan B took a little longer but we pursued our safety and learning expectation, practised some cognitive skills, built our realationship and solved the problem collaboratively and in a calm manner. The time was well spent.