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Mirorring - communicating attunement and promoting limit setting

Limit setting can be a thorny issue for people trying to use Emotion Coaching and not reflip the child's lid in doing so. The following situation demonstrates how limit setting was achieved by the adult in an attuned and non-verbal manner - by the use of mirroring.

Darius, a 7 year old boy had thrown his lunch plate onto the floor and then walked out of the lunch hall. Natalie was called on to deal with the situation.

Darius was outside swinging a stick around. As Natalie approached Darius she was unsure of how she might help as she had not seen the lead up to the event. Natalie also felt a little apprehensive about approaching Darius who shouted 'go away' as she approached but also felt concerned for him as he usually looked forward to his lunch. Natalie thought that Darius might be feeling annoyed, agitated, fearful, hungry and frustrated.

Natalie stayed a distance away from Darius and focussed on keeping her body relaxed and a gentle smile on her face. Darius turned away from Natalie as soon as she sat down a little distance away from him.

Natalie picked up a stick herself and started to draw in the mud. Natalie stayed quiet for a while to give Darius some time to accustom himself to her presence. Darius then started to give Natalie little glimpses of eye contact. Natalie said that she could see that Darius looked annoyed and that this might be because he was hungry, maybe had the wrong lunch or didn't like his lunch. She said this was ok and that she would feel upset if she had a problem with her dinner.

Natalie told Darius that she was there to listen when he was ready and added that if he was worried about getting into trouble for throwing his lunch, it was ok, he wasn't in any trouble. She wanted to help him solve any problem there might be and help him get some lunch.

Darius stopped swinging the stick and started to dig in the mud as Natalie was. Darius finally explained to Natalie that the kitchen had given him the wrong lunch even though he had given them the correct coloured band.

Natalie and Darius were able to go back to the kitchen and explain the mix up.

Natalie's mirroring of the use of a stick not only displayed attunement with Darius, but the way Natalie used the stick set limits on what was acceptable in that context.

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