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Lost In Translation: When Using Hands (Not Words) Is Doing Your Best

Lost In Translation: When Using Hands (Not Words) Is Doing Your Best

Posted by Andrea Elliott on Aug 7th 2015

This post is brought to you by HABA USA and written by guest blogger Eleni Glader.

photoAfter 2 and a half, my daughter "Beans" began to master using her words. She would say things like “I am fruhterated (frusterated) because you took my doll stroller from me.” Whether the little hijacker understood or stuck around long enough to hear her out was irrelevant because her words were effective somehow. Depending on the setting the other parent, an older sibling, teacher or I would make it right for Beans and the other child.

During our long stay abroad, when her words failed her, Beans resorted to using her hands in response to something that upset her. At least that is what I think was going on. While not in a hard way toward other children, I of course took her actions seriously. The first incident struck me by surprise. My knee-jerk reaction was to firmly tell her, “use your words not your hands.” Probably noticeably flushed with embarrassment and disappointment, I felt a wave of heat run down my face. What is going on with my otherwise sweet daughter, I wondered. Then I concluded the problem was her words were not working. In subsequent incidents I tried to intervene as a toddler mediator, a role parents often take on even when there is no perceived language barrier, because with toddlers there often is one anyway.

I was not always an effective mediator however. Mainly because beyond words were norms different from my own. In one case (consisting of 3 play-dates), more so a difference of circumstance than culture—I think. Was the incessant “Nein. Das ist mein” even when it wasn’t, followed by throwing something in Beans’ direction aggressive? Perhaps not? So maybe that is why the mom did not try to correct it? Who knows, but to us it seemed pretty aggressive. Since the other child was permitted to continue this behavior and could not understand Beans’ plea in English to “please stop, no, no, no-oh. You’re my friend. C’mon, let’s play together.” I had to break the cycle of: nasty “neins!” to everything, Beans reacting to the barrage by nudging, whereby the other child would burst into tears in mommy’s arms and claim Beans did something  I knew she didn’t do because I was right there watching. So I allowed Beans to find new playmates on the playground or came up with an excuse to smoothly cut a play-date short the one time it took place in their home.

Through this frustrating period I realized some positive things about my daughter I had not considered before. She does not tell on other children. When someone acts unfavorably toward her she tries to work it out herself although not always in the best way—but she’ll get there, I believe. In a very rare occurrence when she gets hurt and cries because of another child’s deliberate actions, she will bury her head in my shoulder but never mention a name, and if I mention the little culprit she will tell me that the child is a good boy or girl. She tries to protect other children and she is also not afraid to stand up for herself. Nor is she afraid to admit to her wrong-doings. She has integrity. So what is my point? Don’t just look at the action but look at why. I don’t mean because pushing or being a pinching crab may be excusable but certainly more palatable when you know what to do about it. So what did I do about it? I spoke to her about all of it—what she did, what set her off and ways to manage without using her hands. I gave her tools to exercise her options—to bow out gracefully until things settle by finding new playmates or playing something else on her own; test the waters by giving the other child an opportunity to join in the fun; or to walk away for a day.

Author Eleni Glader and FamilyAbout The Author

Eleni Glader is a wife, mother, toy-lover (to the extent that she designed her own indoor/outdoor sensory play table-play kitchen), aspiring children’s book writer and occasional blogger on Wired Academic (an education and tech news site). Eleni has a blog called BebaChic, featuring toddler girl fashion (another passion). She hopes to complete her nursing prerequisites before they change the requirements! While living in Berlin, Germany Eleni discovered HABA, which quickly became a favorite toy brand and source of inspiration.