[Published previously for SFGate.com/moms]
I think that everyone can agree that one kid grabbing a toy from another kid's hands is a big "no,no." Now I ask, what about me (mommy) snatching an open magic marker from Mikey? I have done it before. But it felt hypocritical. Why should I expect him not to take what he wants when I demonstrate the opposite? If it's not life threatening, it can be a perfect learning opportunity and a way to treat him like a sensitive human being.
If I really believe in talking it out and asking for things rather than taking them, then I need to practice what I preach. And so, now I do.
I put my hands together like I am begging for food and kneel down right in front of him. I look at him in the eyes and I am very serious. I say, "Mikey, please give mommy the marker. We only draw on paper. Mommy wants to put the marker away until art time. Please give mommy the marker." He normally drops it gently into my open hands and I say, "thank you." Or, he says, "thank you, Mikey," which means that I should say it. If he refuses then I tell him that I am going to take it on the count of three if he doesn't give it to me. It isn't quite playground rules but I do recognize that I do need to make executive decisions sometimes.
These moments allow me to practice being present. I stop whatever I am doing and embrace the moment. I remain separated emotionally but completely focused on it. These moments don't last more than a few minutes but they are intense and a great spiritual practice. It takes a lot of will power for Mikey to give up the marker and for me not to take the easy way out and grab it from him. Mikey always runs away from the ordeal quite happy and content with himself. And, I save my walls. It's a win win!