George is a bouncy dog, full of good intentions but little self-control. His owner, Harris, leaves him home alone & hopes for the best, with disastrous results! George encounters all the things that he loves – cake, dirt, & chasing the cat. Later, when George is full of remorse, Harris forgives him & suggests a nice walk together. The colours are bold & the illustrations are witty. Repeating phrases – ‘What will George do?’ & ‘Oh no, George!’ allow for discussion about motives & behaviour in a fun & safe way. A sweet story with themes of messing up, making amends & forgiveness.
Babies & small children learn self-regulation & pro-social behaviours, through the nurturing & co-regulation provided by their parents & carers. The average toddler is corrected by their parent on average once every 7 minutes. The first socialisation emotion that children learn is guilt, by around 3 years old. We help toddlers with feelings of shame when they are disciplined by re-engaging with them quickly. A securely attached child is motivated to get back into good relationships & to think about how to make things better.
Children with developmental trauma often struggle with self-regulation, managing their behaviour, & with learning from their mistakes. Their early experiences impact on the developing pre-frontal cortex of the brain, responsible for executive functioning. This includes the ability to inhibit – to resist impulses & to consider the consequences of actions. These children benefit most from close structure & supervision – giving them lots of supported opportunities to succeed, rather than too much freedom to fail. Parents & carers can find it helpful to prioritise the relationship over the task & hold in mind the idea of ‘alliance over compliance’. Getting alongside their child to be a patient teacher or coach & thinking ‘can’t’ rather than ‘won’t’ when their child messes up or refuses to engage.
In Oh No, George! Harris is is quick to reconnect with George, a reminder to us all of the power of connection before correction. Many of our traumatised children would struggle to initiate relational repair in the way George is able to do, but his story provides us with opportunities to explore behaviour gently & empathically. We can make sense of what’s behind behaviour & learn from it together.