I know, it sounds cheesy and not the most creative, but I find that when I color with children and we all get engaged, kids relax and start to talk.
The conversations we have in that relaxed state are often very connecting and eye-opening.
Maybe they should be called connection books.
Yesterday I was coloring with my 6 (almost 7) year-old. We were working together on a picture and he said to me, “I feel like a robber.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Because I’m being so mean to Jude.”
Jude is his little 4 year old brother and it’s true. The last few days Ezzy has had trouble controlling himself and has lashed out at Jude.
At one point he screamed “SHUT UP!!!” at the top of his lungs. Not because he wanted anyone to be quiet, but because it’s the very worst “bad word” he knows. He also hit Jude in anger and frustration.
As hard as it is for Jude, I think it’s worse for Ezzy. I know it hurts his heart to act like that.
Ezra is at that tricky age, transitioning from the preschool years into middle childhood. His ability to self regulate is becoming more developed, but still not consistently available.
Douglas Davies says it is useful to think of the years from 5 to 7 or 8 as a transitional phase. He says,
The first or second grade child often seems to straddle the preschool period and middle childhood, at times advancing in cognitive skills and real-world abilities, at other times relying on egocentric thinking and imagination.
As I was having this conversation with Ezra about his feelings of being a robber, I was reminded of what Douglas Davies says about children developing an internal conscience, which happens during this transitional phase.
Perhaps this is what Ezra is experiencing and trying to describe to me?
During this transitional phase, children also struggle with the implications of having a conscience. An internal conscience requires the child to monitor and set limits on her own behavior. It also punishes the child with negative feelings – guilt, shame, anxiety – when she violates her own internalized sanctions. The task of coming to terms with the presence of rules on the inside is frustrating and anxiety-producing for 6 to 7 year olds. They still have strong volatile impulses, yet an internal voice warns and corrects them. When the conscience is newly internalized, children can be particularly hard on themselves and reactive to feelings of guilt and self blame. They are especially sensitive to being scolded because the adult’s reprimand awakens the internal voice of conscience and makes them feel doubly punished. At times they may act impulsively, as if trying to deny the existence of the conscience, only to be painfully reminded of its presence when they feel guilty afterward.”
Does this ring a bell with you? It describes my 6 1/2 year old perfectly.
Sure, it doesn’t tell us exactly how to respond or what to do.
But I think that when we understand this process our children are going through, and recognize what’s happening internally, we will be able to respond intuitively from our hearts and guide our children through the transition.
How are things with your 6 to 8 year old? I’d love to hear from you!