Sportscasting, narrating and broadcasting are all words used to describe a parenting technique developed by Magda Gerber. Sportscasting is a way of giving a child a broader perspective of what is going on in a given situation. A chance to pause and take in the situation, if you will. Often times that is enough for a child to take stock of his emotions and change course. In it’s ideal state, sportscasting should be even toned, lacking in accusation or judgement and simply describe the facts.
A parent could say to a toddler “your blocks fell down, that really upset you.” or “You were playing with the ball and now Anna has it.” The goal is not to force anything on the children and let them work out their problems as much as possible on their own because, as children often do, they surprise you with their capability…if you let them.
Ok, so I thought I was a pretty good at this. It took me a long time to finally get there but I did. I could sportscast between toddlers and I could sportscast with my two children, most of the time successfully and most of the time non-judgmentally. Yes, I screwed up, and suggested solutions sometimes, but overall I thought I was getting pretty good at it. Until, UNTIL I had to apply it to five year-olds. After all, RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) is geared toward the under two crowd so how do we handle sportscasting with the almost kindergarten crowd? Does it still work? Yes, but holy cow is it harder! Here’s the story of how I stepped up my game into big kid territory.
My son had a friend over. They are both five, both strong and persistent boys. They wanted to ride bikes out in front of the house. They were high energy and they were going fast. My son was on his bike with training wheels, his friend on our Riprider 360 that spins around every which way, and my daughter, 2, on her plasma bike. They were riding for about 10 minutes when they got off the bikes and started climbing rocks.
When they decided to get back on the bikes, the friend got on the bike instead of the Riprider. My son was not happy; he asked for the bike back. The friend says no. He asks again, very politely. The friend says no. He asks even more politely. No was still his answer. I interjected once with “You both want the two wheeler, but there’s only one, what can we do?” That didn’t help. My son switches to reason “Come on, it’s my bike, I really want a turn.” Nope. “You have to share; you can’t just take people’s things and not give them back.” No. “It’s my bike, you HAVE to give it back.” My boy’s voice is starting to sound angry. Still the friend says no.
I’m starting to get a little uncomfortable now. I notice I have started to interrupt at least three times, but I stop each time. Saying only “You both really want the bike. You were on the bike and now your friend has it.”
My son changes tactics again and decides to negotiate. “How about you ride down hill one more time?” No. “Two more times?” No. “Three, Four, Five?” No no no. “Well how many times then?” The friend tells him “I’m not going to share it. My mom says I have to wait until people are done and so do you.” My son replies with a “Humph. You and your mom are not in charge of the whole wide world. You can’t always have things your way.” The friend still barks his “No” and shakes his head calmly but firmly.
Here’s where it starts to get tricky for me. I feel myself clenching my jaw, sweating a little, holding back my words, wanting to tell them it’s time to go inside and just end it. I catch myself feeling this way and convince myself this is good practice. I thank the powers that be that the street is deserted so no one can see what surely looks and sounds ridiculous on my part.
“If you don’t give me my bike back I’m gonna punch you in the face” my son says. He grabs the bike handle bars until his knuckles are white, his face is about an inch from his friends face and he is yelling. I intervene with “I won’t let you” and I calmly peel his fingers back from the grips of the bike. I back him up just a little. Then he tells his friend “I will scratch you if you don’t give it back.” The friend still holds firm. (Secretly, I am impressed with the friend – Man this kid is good! He is unruffled!)
I hold him back again when he starts to charge. Then he suddenly changes tactics again. “How ’bout you ride my sister’s bike?” “No it’s too little” (he’s cracking…I hoped) My son changes course again “How about the spin bike it’s super cool” Nope. My daughter hears this and goes to get on spin bike herself. The friend then decides he wants the spin bike that she has and he gives my son the two wheeler. Phew! Momentary self celebration, but oh no, the battle is not over, I realize; I must continue on.
Of course, my daughter won’t give up the spin bike. I sportscast again “She is riding the spin bike and you want it.” My son goes over to his friend and tells him quietly “Hey listen, if you ask her and then wait a long time she’ll give it to you, that always works with her.” The friend asks my daughter for the bike and she says no. He waits about 30 seconds and there it is…. she gives up the bike and everyone rides back up the hill.
And that was that. I was so relieved for it to be over, yet so impressed with these little negotiators for solving their own problem. I was also quite happy to see his mom pull up after it was over.