When Margaret was having trouble with one of her second graders she discovered a technique that helped her turn power struggles into lessons in emotional intelligence. The liberating line was: “You are a comedian, aren’t you?”
The same technique worked like magic with her eight-month-old son, Musa. She told me this story:
Musa loves water. His affinity for water was obvious at six months. When engaged with water, he did not like to be interrupted!
After a long bath one day, he ignored her when she tried to get him out of the bathtub. Reaching both arms into the tub, she said, “Okay, time to get out, now.” He kept on moving his arms and legs, hands and feet through the water.
When she went ahead and picked him up out of the water, he started to wail.
She sat down on the tile floor of the bathroom, and holding him firmly in both hands, looked him square in the face and with a smile on her face said: “You really like water, don’t you.”
Eight-month-old Musa stopped crying instantly and smiled back.
We love it when someone notices something special about us. Lovingly saying: “I see this in you,” is such a powerful technique for turning a power struggle into a love fest, it is a wonder we don’t use it more often with each other—especially with children.