We talk to M a lot about social graces if you will. Greeting the teacher who gets her out of the car, answering other people’s questions, etc. She runs the show while she’s in our home, and tends to lean more on the observant side of her personality when we are out and about. As much I understand it, I also find it frustrating at times.

One particular time we were saying goodbye to a sweet friend and her mom after finishing up a play date. The mom gave M a hug and thanked her for coming. M went stiff and started talking in a very silly voice and the whole thing was……odd. I could tell that she felt uncomfortable, and I thought long and hard about how to help her and what to say. I prayed about it too hoping the right words would find themselves in my heart and in my mouth.

That night, as is our typical routine, she sat on the counter while I cleaned up the kitchen. “Do you know what it means to be confident?” I asked. “No.” She responded. “It means to be strong and bold,” I said. “And it sounds like this: “Thank you so much for having me over today.” I said in my strongest most articulate voice. M’s eyes lit up. “Do another one,” she said. “Hi. I’m M. It’s nice to meet you.” I said in the same voice. “Do it again!” she squealed. And so it continued. We role played how to greet a friend, how to greet a friend’s parent, how to ask for help, and how to respond to a teacher’s request, each taking turns being confident.

I could tell this had stuck. She got it, and she seemed armed and ready to tackle the world with her newfound confidence. She hoisted herself off the counter and said, “This was so fun! And you know what Mommy? Now this won’t be hard for me anymore.”

My heart broke a little after that statement. What a humbling moment as a parent to realize that something that was causing me frustration was something that she was really struggling with. How often do we miss the mark with our kids because we don’t realize what’s truly going on? What may masquerade as bad behavior, laziness, or temper tantrums may really be our children saying “Help me. I don’t know how to do this on my own.” M just needed the tools to change the trajectory of her actions, and once she had them she was like a different person. She implemented them right away. She had found what she was looking for and off she went.

They always show us what they need. We just have to be the ones to decipher the clues.

Find the joy~


Jessica McCauley, M.Ed. is a parenting coach/consultant. She draws on her background as a Montessori educator and Child Life Specialist to help families navigate the challenges of the early childhood years. Contact Jessica at for more information or to schedule a consultation.