Child Development Work


“I’m Never Gonna ’Vite You to My Birthday!”

Sarah and Lupita, both 5-year-olds, have claimed a shady spot under a thick magnolia tree on the playground. It is their favorite place to play. They have staunchly defended their little territory against small bands of marauding playmates by insisting, “You can’t play. We got here first. This is our house.”

Although their teacher does not allow toys from home in the classroom, the students have been allowed to bring their dolls outside with them for their outdoor play period. Sarah has a well-worn Raggedy Ann doll and Lupita has a new, soft plastic baby doll, wrapped in a pink blanket that looks just like a newborn baby.

They rocked their dolls to sleep and carefully placed them beside the trunk of the tree, and then they scurried around gathering leaves and sticks to outline a boundary for their playhouse. Sarah finds a large stick and announces that it is the door, “Nobody can come in unless they open this door. Tick tock. Now it’s all locked up.”

Robby, also 5, has been watching and listening to the girls as he climbed and jumped off a climbing structure “fort” nearby. He cannot resist Sarah’s challenge. “I can too get in,” he taunts as he dances around the line of leaves and sticks that is the pretend wall of the girls’ playhouse. He pokes his foot over the line and darts just out of their reach as he sticks his tongue out, laughing and chanting, “Nanny, nanny, boo, boo!”

Sarah chases and yells at Robby, while Lupita furiously mends the pretend wall. Robby retreats to the top of the climbing structure insisting, “Uh-huh! I could get in there. It’s not really your house.”

Lupita plants her feet firmly in the grass and stares viciously at Robby, guarding hearth and home, while Sarah runs to tell on Robby.

Robby, of course, loses all interest in Lupita’s mean look. He is perched behind a post at the top of the fort watching carefully to see what his teacher, Miss Gresham, will do next.

Miss Gresham bends down on one knee and listens intently as Sarah rants and raves about Robby’s alleged offenses. Quietly, Miss Gresham says, “Did you tell Robby how you felt when he messed up your house? Would you like for me to come with you to talk to Robby?” Sarah takes Miss Gresham’s hand and quickly leads the way back to the scene of the crime. Robby, meanwhile, is huddled on the fort hoping no one can see him. He forgets that Miss Gresham is tall enough to talk eye-to-eye with him at the highest part of the fort.

With a gentle and reassuring voice, Miss Gresham says, “Robby, let’s talk with Lupita and Sarah. I think they’re feeling very angry.” Robby pauses for just a second, but Miss Gresham holds her hands out and says, “It’s okay, Robby. Sometimes I make mistakes and people get mad at me, too.” Robby leans off the fort and Miss Gresham lowers him to the ground. She looks right in his eyes and pats him as she says, “Thanks, Robby.” Then she assumes the role of objective referee as the girls tell Robby, in no uncertain terms, “Don’t you break our house no more!”

Robby’s lip quivers and a big tear begins to slide down his grimy face as he pulls back his shoulders and announces, “You ain’t my best friend and I ain’t never gonna ’vite you to my birth’ay party!”


1. Do you agree with Miss Gresham’s handling of the problem? Explain. What would you have done differently?
2. What might have happened if Miss Gresham had responded to Robby with an angry voice and negative punishment?

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