Monday, October 31, 2011


Empathic Human In Training rocks Crazy Hair Day, Summer '11
One thing we are trying to work on with Tommy is empathy. I know almost all kids need help developing this "skill" but for some reason T's empathy muscles have been particularly difficult to bulk up. Last week T had an error in judgement that led to outright empathy for his little brother and I spent the evening doing the invisible Victory Dance. Here's the scoop:

The boys in T's second grade class like certain "stuff". This is totally normal I guess (I remember the kids in my 2nd grade class collecting Garbage Pail Kid cards), but since Tom is the oldest kid in our family, he's frequently the last to know about whatever the new "thing" is. We don't often indulge his requests to get what "EVERYBODY ELSE" has, but recently he asked for a Tech Deck. I had no idea what a Tech Deck was but learned that it's a mini skateboard. I  know I've seen these before - like YEARS ago - so I was surprised to find that they had come back. Tommy has a piggy bank with loose change that he's earned and we discovered that these things are only about $3. We decided that if he wanted to spend his own $3 on a non-violent, non-commercial toy, what the heck? So, he got one.

He really really REALLY needed to take it to school because ALL the boys play with them during recess. Fine. Take it to school. It's a $3 toy you bought yourself. Go for it.

Of course, he lost it on the playground that very first day. He was upset but was just glad we weren't mad at him for it.

Cut to Wednesday of last week. A friend of Tommy's had an Anikan Skywalker Tech Deck. He wanted to give it to T. (I'm not a fan of kids giving away or accepting toys like this, but it was out of my control and, honestly, a $3 toy). T was SO excited to get a new Tech Deck and he wanted to give the other boy something in return. So, he gave him a toy he had brought to school that day: a plastic grasshopper. Super cheap. From the toy bin at the dentist's office. T totally got the better end of the deal.

So what's the problem?

Ummmm, yeah. That wasn't his grasshopper. It was Elliott's.
Would you swap this....?
.... for this?

Tommy got off the bus that afternoon and told us about his new toy and how he gave away the grasshopper adding, "I hope you're not mad Elliott, but I really wanted to give him something for being so nice!"

E was immediately bawling his eyes out. I don't think he was actually that upset about the toy being gone. (He's smart enough to know it was a cheap a$$ dentist toy!) But, I let the waterworks continue because I wanted T to see the impact of his choice.

He was immediately SO sorry. He really thought he had done a great thing by giving the boy at school a toy in return for the Tech Deck. He thought I would be proud of him. Poor kid. He handed the new toy over to Elliott so he could carry it home from the bus stop. He said sorry over and over again. But I still think he was confused.

When we got home I explained it this way: Imagine Elliott went into your piggy bank and took out some money. Then he went and bought a toy with it for himself. Would that be fair? Would that toy really be Elliott's? What would you want to happen?

He chewed on that for awhile and apologized to E and me a slew more times. I just kept telling him, "I'm so glad you are able to see that you made a bad choice and that you want to make it better. You have to work out with Elliott what you can do to make it up to him."

In the end, he asked Elliott if he wanted a super bouncy ball (about the same value as the lost grasshopper) he got at a friend's birthday party. That satisfied Elliott and allowed T to keep his precious Tech Deck. I really think the Tech Deck ought to belong to Elliott, but since both parties are happy with the decision, I'm going to let it stand.

I love that Tommy was trying to reciprocate the kindness his classmate showed to him.
I love that Tommy was so very sorry for giving away Elliott's toy.
I love that Tommy found a way to make things square with Elliott.
I love (sort of!) that Elliott made a big fuss over the loss of a toy he didn't really care about - in this instance it really helped in his big brother's emotional growth.

Of course I WISH Tommy could have foreseen that the choice he was making was a bad one... Hopefully next time he will.

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