In August we are starting a new character development program at my school so I spent a couple of days in training last month to get ready to share it with our faculty. When I was perusing the book I noticed there was a section for preschoolers so I decided that this summer, the boys and I would get in a little character development time. I thought it would be helpful to familiarize myself with the material and also, let's just be honest here, my kids could definitely benefit from a little more character : )
So this morning was our first session. The whole premise is to get a small group to share, build relationships and then those relationships will foster feelings of respect, mutual admiration, etc. etc. So our very small group of three sat down on the floor of our playroom and I (the trained facilitator) started the discussion. We first talked about things that make us happy. Connor had an extensive list that included art galleries (I'm not kidding), mud, white dogs and space. When I asked Hudson what he liked he responded with a single word, "Eat!" Okay, got it. I checked icebreaker off our to-do list. I was now thinking that this was going extremely well, no one had wondered off, there had been no hitting or crying and I could practically feel the relationships building right in front of my face.
Next, we talked about how it makes us feel happy when we see those things that make us happy and that it also makes us happy when people say nice things to us. Connor was now so excited to share he is bouncing around raising his hand left and right trying to get my attention. He is apparently going to be "that" kid in school. You know, the one the teachers always love and never find annoying? So I let him share about fifteen stories about his general awesomeness and then interrupted to tell him that I wanted him to think about the fact that since hearing good things about us makes us feel good, then telling others nice things will make them feel good. I could see the little light bulb go off and he proceeds to tell me all these nice things. How pretty I am, how I make the best sandwiches, how smart I am.....and you know what, I was right, it did make me feel good. So then, to set the right example, I shared with Connor some compliments. All of which he apparently already knew. So this goes on with Connor and I just showering each other with praise and after a couple more minutes, I call a time out to the love fest and tell Connor that it is now time for him to share some nice things about his brother (who this entire time has been eating graham crackers like he will never see another in his life and completely ignoring us). Complete silence follows. If our life was a cartoon there would be crickets chirping. I looked at him and could see the wheels turning, but the kid who never shuts up, apparently cannot think of a single compliment for his baby brother.
Finally, he jumps up and said, "I thought of something nice for Mushy!" It was about time, so I readied myself to hear the nice thing that had taken so much thought. He turned to his brother (eye contact is key in this exercise) and said, "Mush, you are the smallest boy I have ever seen and that's good because you can fit into tiny places where nobody else can like the bottom drawer in my room." Then he kissed him on his graham crackery lips.
Hmmm, that was not in my manual. Two things really bothered me about this. First, was that really all he could come up with, pointing out his tiny physique? Is that truly the only compliment we can come up with for poor Hudson "Mushy" Hill? And second, when the crap has Connor been putting his brother into the bottom drawer of his dresser and how long has that little exercise been going on? But in a desperate attempt to get our little group therapy session back on track, I told Connor that I would praise his brother in an appropriate fashion and I showered him with compliments on everything from his intelligence to his graham cracker eating skills, because by then I was feeling pretty guilty.
The whole thing kind of fell apart after that, Hudson took off his diaper and started streaking around the room while Connor went to his bedroom to give compliments to Kenny and Stuart on "their cute faces."
I just can't wait for next week's lesson.