Jack is so focussed on blocks at the moment. He will sit in the block area for seemingly ages building. Usually this level of concentration is reserved for his drum kit. He is completely invested in building these houses, they must be just how he wants them, and only he can build them.
But blocks are blocks. They are different shapes, different sizes, they don’t all fit together simply, they fall down. And that is where the problem lays.
Jack has strong emotions, he becomes frustrated when things don’t go as he planned, even seemingly small things. Sometimes it is difficult for me to be empathetic towards him as it seems that what has upset him is so small and easily fixed with a little bit of patience.
But I know that even though the fact that the round block won’t stay on top of the rectangular one seems small to me, it is not small to Jack. It is frustrating and upsetting. It is important to him to have that block on there, it’s part of his plan.
So what do we do? I can’t have him throwing blocks across the room, and I don’t want him to feel helpless when something isn’t working. I want him to know that mistakes happen, they should happen, they need to happen, that’s how we learn and create and discover new things and new ways of working. The blocks will fall, many times, but when they fall you will learn something new and you’ll be able to use that next time you build.
‘Expect mistakes and problems….Model resilience. Show a calm confidence that your child will find a way. Encourage him to step back and think about his options; if necessary, brainstorm with him. Give him the time and support to solve his own problems.’ ~ Lori Pickert, Project-based Homeschooling
So I sit near Jack or at least in ear shot of him. Sometimes he will ask for help and at those times I’ll sit with him and ask him what he is trying to do. It’s tempting to tell him the reason, that rectangular block is too narrow to have the other one sit on top, but what good would that do? I already know that, but he doesn’t. He needs to find that out for himself. So I try to coax out of him what he is doing and why it isn’t working.
‘What is happening Jack?’
‘Why do you think that is happening?’
‘What would you like to happen?’
‘What else could you try?’
Other times he doesn’t ask for help. He starts to repeat the same motion over and over, and as the block continues to fall off, becomes more and more frustrated ending in him knocking down his whole building and throwing a block across the room.
At those times, I need to intervene. He needs to know that he could hurt someone if he throws blocks and that he also needs to be respectful of our belongings. I’ve learnt a lot from Janet Lansbury about setting limits in a calm manner. So with a firm but gentle hand I usually try to stop him from throwing the block and say;
‘I won’t let you throw the block. I can see that you are frustrated.’
‘What is making you frustrated?’
Once he has calmed down we can usually work through it together. I can see this being an ongoing challenge; failure, or at least the perception of failure. I just hope that both Jack and Sarah learn that failure to do something is not a failure in them, that all things come with practice.