Mirroring Monday – Making Beds & Friendships Edition

Start the week off right with examples of mirroring from the team at Connected Parenting and share your own favorite mirroring moment in the comments below.

This week’s Mirroring Moment is from Kelly Parisa. Enjoy!

As the Educational and Behavioral Consultant at a wonderful private school, I am often asked to observe students and advise teachers about what is happening academically and behaviorally and how to help the children be their best.

I’d been learning about and observing a little 4 year old, Everett, who was exhibiting lots of “acting out” behavior by knocking over toys, blocks, pushing friends and throwing things. It was sadly impacting the impression that his classmates had of him and that his teachers held about him.

During one visit to the classroom, Everett moved to the Dramatic Play area and almost immediately knocked over a “golden castle” made of cardboard boxes. He turned to check for an adult reaction. The children began telling him, “Don’t Everett! Don’t knock over our castle!” He smiled. He then took some boxes and made a “bed”. He told a friend, “Look at my bed!” The boy, Jamie, told him that the boxes were not for a bed, but for the castle and he dismantled Everett’s bed. Everett turned and looked confused.

This being the first time I’d witnessed his disruptive, destructive behavior, I pointed out to the teachers, Molly and Sandra, that he was using the boxes functionally and was attempting to get a peer’s attention, wondering if this wasn’t a feasible option. Everett went back to get boxes to rebuild his bed and the children again interrupted his attempts.

I pulled Everett aside and as he held on to his box I said, “You made such a great bed! That was fun! You showed your friends your cool bed!” He smiled. I then said, “ And then, they took your bed apart to make the castle again.” He said, “Yeah, I made a bed” and he held his golden box. I said, “Here’s a secret…you really want to play and make that bed, but when you knock toys over the other kids don’t know you want to play. They start to think, ‘Everett is sometimes scary because he wrecks our fun and the things we make’ so they don’t get to know you want to play and are fun to play with. Do you want to play with Jamie? How can we invite him to make a bed with you? “ We proceeded to practice how to invite Jamie to play.

We walked over to Jamie and with prompted whispers, Everett asked Jamie, “Do you want to make a bed with me?” Jamie said yes. The boys walked into the Dramatic Play area and began building “beds”.

I sat with the teachers observing. The teachers told me they were conflicted because the initial message to the class had been to not disturb the castle, as it was built by friends and is important to them. They could see that Everett and Jamie were enjoying the boxes and playing well together now, but were concerned that mixed messages were being sent.

Now it was my turn to mirror the teachers: “Oh my gosh. You’ve sent these messages to the children and I step in and totally sent an opposite message, not knowing you had set this up beforehand. And now you’re wanting to help him play appropriately but are concerned about these mixed signals I’ve sent”. They both politely nodded.

I called Everett over and took his hands and said, “I’ve made a mistake and I want to make it right. I said it was okay to use the boxes with Jamie and now I learned those are only for the castle. So we need to figure out another way to make beds with Jamie”. Everett was very attentive and one of his teachers suggested using chairs to make beds. As Jamie began to build a bed by putting chairs together, Everett joined Molly, in the Dramatic Play area, walking carefully around the castle he so often would bump into and knock down, arranging chairs. He left to again walk around the castle to observe Jamie. He turned, again, careful not to knock over the castle, and told Molly, “I want to go out there”. Molly moved the chairs out next to Jamie and the boys began playing in their “beds”, looking at a book and sharing a blanket together, smiling and talking.

Mirroring allowed me to get the bigger picture, to understand a little boy’s struggle with how to become involved in play and enjoy time with his peers. It allowed me to step back and respect the teachers and their concerns. Repair allowed me the opportunity to be vulnerable and humble, acknowledging for all of us that this was about understanding how to help this little boy acclimate and integrate into his classroom, appreciating the work and creations of others, while using his words to build his friendships and get his needs met.

I left thankful that I was able to shed insight to the teachers on the functions of his behavior (his communicating, “I want to play, please notice me”) and to offering opportunities for teachers and classmates to enjoy cooperative play so that Everett’s reputation as a fun friend could begin to be recognized.

* To find out more about mirroring and the CALM method, read the Connected Parenting book or make an appointment with one of our therapists.

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