We’re happy to welcome back guest author blogger Tamar Jacobson, PhD. In addition to writing “Don’t Get So Upset!” Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings by Understanding Your Own and editing Perspectives on Gender in Early Childhood, Dr. Jacobson is chair of the Department of Teacher Educator, director of the Early Childhood Education Program, and associate professor at Rider University. She is also a frequent and popular presenter at international, national, regional, and state conferences and workshops on a variety of topics. In this post, Dr. Jacobson shares a unique look at dealing with complex emotions when it comes to discipline.
Well, now I have two kittens in the house and am faced with early education challenges. I find myself confronted with situations that require attitudes and behaviors from me — many which I suggest or expect from the pre- or in-service teachers I instruct or mentor. Naturally I understand that a kitten is not a human child. Or do I?
These little creatures were raised for many weeks in a large cage together, the remaining duo from a litter of six. Mimi is sturdy, strong, and healthy. She is rambunctious and smart, eats voraciously, and constantly is at play with everything she can lay her paws on. Oscar is tiny, tender, gentle, and fragile. He seems to wobble as he wanders cautiously through the house. My sister, Sue, described him as wearing his “battle dress” as he slinks around prepared to defend himself at any moment from any incoming danger, namely his sister, Mimi. She charges him and urges him to rough and tumble, but he refuses and subsides into the background. Often we find him hunkered down next to one of the heating units, and he sleeps, it seems, all day and all night.
I go in and out of parental panic. Should I intervene on Oscar’s behalf? Or discipline dear little Mimi? And what does that mean? “To discipline Mimi.” Can one really set boundaries for a cat? For example, what happens when I am out of the house and they learn to live together, which they have done already in their earliest kitten hood within the confines of their cage? At times I adore Mimi as she runs around with her red ball chasing and tumbling with it, and then running towards me with her little bandy legs, carrying the ball in her mouth expecting me to throw it for her to “fetch,” again and again. There are times when I experience frustration when she charges her vulnerable, little brother, while understanding, at the very same time, that they have to work out their own dynamics and power structures, as two cats living in the same house.
And there I go again and again — round and round, confused and anxious, not knowing what to do!
True enough, it surely presses all kinds of personal buttons to see Oscar as the underdog (cat?), a victim to marginalization and working hard to be invisible — out of Mimi’s range. I have to admit that I find myself identifying with him. And, on the other hand, that feeling makes me as mad as a hatter. Because I have been working on myself in therapy for years in order not to feel like that. Indeed, I have made a conscious decision to take all kinds of emotional stands for me recently, and no longer feel like a victim. No indeed. Just the opposite. I feel empowered and so much more confident. I realize, too, that dear sweet little Mimi is not the “bad guy (girl?).” Just a little kitty with developmental needs of her own.
And so, I conclude that Oscar’s cat behavior, as he works within the power structure of his relationship with sister Mimi, has absolutely nothing to do with who I am, nor how I perceive myself.
Wow! Therapeutic opportunity!
Perhaps finding these two cats was the very thing I needed to remind me about my self and how I view early education. Which is, that our own emotional development affects how we relate to and interact with children and families.
Plain and simple.
We have an awesome responsibility to work on ourselves psychologically, when we develop relationships with other human beings …
… hm …
… or cats for that matter.
For more from Dr. Jacobson, visit her personal blog, her new blog, revisit her first Redleaf Blog guest post, and check out her books, “Don’t Get So Upset!” Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings by Understanding Your Own and Perspectives on Gender in Early Childhood.