A new girl walks into the “classroom” and sits on a chair. None of the chairs have names on them and there are no books on the table to indicate that this might be somebody’s “spot”.  A few minutes later, 2 more girls walk into the room and sit down.  They say “hello” to the new girls but give her a “funny” look.  A couple minutes pass and another girl walks into the room and stops dead in her tracks.  She looks at the new girl and says, “Hi, I’m Abby. I’m sorry but you are in my spot.” The new girl apologized and moved to a chair that was off to the side.

“That’s MY spot” seems to have an enormous amount of emotion attached to it.  The funny thing is, this situation happened at a staff meeting and the girls were grown professional women.

I witnessed the same sort of thing when I attended a two day conference and we had some new individuals join us on the second day.  Clearly, they had not established their “spot” from the previous day.  When the “spot” owners walked into the room, I saw this confused looked on their faces.  “They’re in our spots” they said to each other.  Reluctantly, the 2 approached “my” table and asked, “Do these spots belong to someone?”  When they got settled in their new spots, one of the ladies admitted, “It seems so silly, but moving spots has really thrown me off this morning!”

Why are we so surprised and often frustrated when children have similar feelings and reactions to their “spot” being taken.  “Just find somewhere else to sit.  Don’t be silly. You left.” As adults we find it difficult. A little change like moving to another chair is enough to throw our morning off?

Some children struggle with change.  Others have chaotic home lives. Something as simple as knowing where their spot is can be comforting and help them feel safe at school.  Those big reactions we see may be linked to these underlying issues.  Validating their feelings and empathizing can help to deescalate the child.  It might help them to hear that sometimes it’s hard for you to give up your spot at a meeting. “That’s MY spot” opens the doors for teachers and professionals to foster emotional regulation, respect and problem solving.  A program like Tools for Life® provides consistent language and messaging to make the most out of these teachable moments.

Try out your own “That’s MY spot” experiment.  The next time you sit down for dinner with your family, sit in a different spot.  Share your observations and insights here.