Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Full is Your Bucket?

Kid's egos are delicate things. Even in the midst play that is supposed to be fun, guarding their egos is a fierce priority. It can be a tough balancing act to keep everyone from cannibalizing each other emotionally. My son and one of his best friends are a great example. They usually have a blast together, but when their egos come into play, things get dicey. At first I thought it was an alpha-male thing, but I increasingly think it's more complicated than that.
Alpha-male 1 needs to be the smartest cookie in the room. The other kids can't surprise him with anything, or even ask him a joke, because it either makes him angry or he spoils it for them. He gets mad when another kid asks him a question that he doesn't know the answer to, and he cuts them off quickly if he thinks he knows what they are going to say.  He can suck the life out of games they try to play together, by interrupting everyone to let them know when they're wrong, or by taking over if they aren't doing something the right way. I know that he doesn't want to make the other kids feel bad, but I do think it makes him feel good when he thinks the other kids know he's smarter than them.
Alpha-male A, on the other hand, needs to feel respected and listened to. He has a speech impediment that causes him take longer to say what he's trying to say, and that means he cuts get off a lot. His fine motor skills are a little behind so it sometimes takes him longer to master a skill. And, because of his ADHD, he doesn't think the same way as people. He gets questioned, contradicted and ridiculed a lot and that makes him feel dumb. He's starting to fight back more and more to make sure everyone knows that he's just as smart as them.

I love them both. They're both wonderful kids and are going to be great men one day. As they get older, they'll hopefully become more self-confident and secure in themselves. For now though, these two unique personalities clash a lot. Games and school work, in particular, showcase how fragile their egos are. I fully expect their squabbles about rules, skills, strategies or whatever, to end in a shouting match between "I'M SMART!" and "SO AM I!"

Written by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer.
Illustrated by Maurie J. Manning

One of the things that's helping is a book called "How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids" by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. It's about everyone's invisible emotional bucket, and why it's important for those buckets to be full. They're slowly realizing how easy it is to fill - or empty - someone else's bucket, and that people don't feel good when their bucket gets kicked over or, heaven forbid, is empty. It's going to be a while before they are mature enough to think about someone else's bucket as equally important their own. Heck, a lot of adults can't do that! What they can start to master though, even at this young age, is an old adage that most of our parents taught us:  "If you can't help fill someone else's bucket, you should just leave it alone!"


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