I am pushing gently.
A little girl comes over and wants to push her too.
“Gently” I say. And she pushes her gently, slowly building up momentum until it approaches being too fast.
I could repeat the word “gently”, have her figure it out. Or dive in and stop the swing,assuming she is ignoring my words.
Instead I smile and add more words to paint a better picture of what “gentle” means right now.
“A little slower, okay? She is littler than her friend in the other swing. Her neck is not as strong, if you push her too quickly she won’t be able to hold her head up.”
She’s looking at me. “Can I show you?” I ask. I push gently. “See?”
The little girl pushes so gently the swing slows almost to a stop. I chuckle with a smile.”that is very gentle. She can go a little faster than that.”
She tries again, this time at the perfect speed.
“You are very good with babies.” I say.
She smiles a huge smile.
Often when the word “gentle” is not immediately understood, we jump in quickly. If the baby is going to be hurt, jumping in is good. But often we can pause the older child’s actions with more words and paint a better picture of what we expect.
Or we can redirect to a different positive interaction.
The gentle that we are with a horse is different from the gentle we are with daddy. The gentle we are with daddy is different from the gentle we are with mommy when she is pregnant. There is the gentleness we show great grandma who is sick. The gentleness we show a bunny. Another child our size. The gentleness we show a newborn, a six month old,a one year old, a five year old. There is the gentleness we show a butterfly or a tiny little inchworm.
I like to use more words to help people guess well.