What an awesome night yesterday at OWLS Club. The children were in the zone and very focused on their play. Ok, so it started to rain, but there is nothing like putting up a tarp shelter and lighting a fire to bring on the feeling of contentment and being enveloped by the deepening darkness.

As we were heading back at the end of the session, the children ran off and hid in the darkness with the grown ups trying to spot them in the thick bracken with our torches. Oh, I do like reflective strips on kids jackets! I found one five year girl perfectly happy hiding in a dip in the ground. She was lying down in a damp patch of grass and looking up at the trees. (I would like to add she was also looking at the stars but that was more wishful thinking than reality last night.) No amount of persuasion would get the little girl to move and it was past our time to head down the hill back to the cars. The others walked on down to the bright headlights and I remained behind with the child. While I waited for her to get up and return with me to the cars, I switched off my torch and set myself to wait patiently in the darkness of the Aberdeenshire woods.

At that moment, I heard a faint whisper and snuffle coming from nearby. At first I thought it was the girl climbing out of her hiding place but I was sorely mistaken. I stood still and held my breath. I heard the soft sound again, eerily reminiscent of a snow leopard! The sound came closer. Four paws on the ground creeping slowing towards me. The giant cat inched its way closer to me and I began to wonder about my fate, Would I be mauled by a giant cat in Birse or would it return quietly with me to the cars? In fact neither happened, something must have surprised the cat as it suddenly shot off down the hill at the speed of a hunting cheetah and was already belted into the car by the time I got down the hill.

Now, the whole purpose of this post is not just the telling of a story, but in the recognition of why a particular strategy worked for a specific child at one moment in time. This is not about waving a magic wand a saying this technique will work every time we have a reluctant child not wanting to conform to our own particular expectations. (In this case of recognizing it was well past the time to head home and return to the cars with the rest of the group.) Metaphorically, by reaching out to the child at her level, and by entering into a world of fantasy (initially created by me by verbally suggesting that there might be a snow leopard hunting in the Birse woods) but taken on by her, enabled her to move from the position of being very mildly rebellious and testing out the opportunities and boundaries of defiance, to a position where she was happily able to return to her mum at the car park. Not a cross word spoken, not a frustrated leader in sight. Just a happy little girl who had transformed herself temporarily into a wild snow leopard creeping around in the woods.

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