A number of years ago in one of my groups, was a 2-1/2 year old boy who was extremely “active.” He constantly grabbed toys from other kids – with apparent glee. It was very frustrating for all of us. I told him from the start that this behavior was not ok with us. (I think it’s very important to describe in simple language exactly what you are upset about, and how their behavior affects other people. Even very young children can understand this.) After putting him in time-out, he got very angry with me. Time-out consists of bringing the child to an area of the room away from the other kids and without any toys, and where they are able to observe the other children playing. The next day his parents expressed concern about my handling of the situation. (He had “reported” to them how mean I was the day before!) I described to them what his behavior had been in the group and that it had led me to decide to “isolate” him, for a short period of time, from the other kids. After that point, they deferred to me when he was at the playgroup, and also confessed that there was a serious disruption going on in their family.
At some point during that year I was sitting on the play mats with all the kids and said to him quietly, “Why don’t you listen to me? I keep telling you to stop taking things away from the other kids.” He said, “I’m not a nice boy.” I said, “Yes you are!” I held him in my lap and his whole body relaxed. I kept telling him that he was a great boy, a nice boy, and that he was so much fun and that I was so happy that he was in the playgroup. After a few minutes he stood up and I asked him, “Who said were not a nice boy?” He said, “My mom.” I said, “Well, she’s wrong!” Our relationship and his behavior in the playgroup changed dramatically after that. He and his mom sent me a postcard the summer after the playgroup. Written on it was a scribbly drawing and the words, “I love Judy to space.”