Grandma Says...

Book Of The Month: Horrible Bear

By Ame Dyckman Little Brown and Co., 2016 Ages 3-6

Ah, the lessons youngsters have to learn! What a daunting list they would make, if we wrote them all down. An important one is that sometimes things happen that are just accidents, with nobody to blame, and that learning to forgive these and move on is important.

That is the idea illustrated in this rollicking book. A little girl flies her kite into a cave where a bear is sleeping. Startled, he rolls over onto the kite and breaks it. The little girl is furious, stomping off, throwing things, and muttering, "Horrible bear."

The bear, typical in this situation, becomes defensive, "I'm not horrible-she barged in and woke me up, how would she like it if..." Then he has an idea.

He practices stomping into her room, and off he goes, building up a righteous head of steam. When he does barge in, an accidental breaking of her toy leads to illumination.

The girl apologizes, and "all the horrible went out of Bear." Together they patched up everything, even the kite. "Nobody was horrible at all."

Egocentric preschoolers can take things very personally, assuming that all events are directed towards them individually. Young children are really unable to assume the viewpoint of another person, so focus only on their own hurt feelings or broken toys.

As with the child in this story, it wouldn't occur to them to think how disturbed bear was to be shocked from sleep, and then find an angry little girl yelling at him.

Cause and effect are shaky principles to these youngsters, so they are ready to assume that somebody was out to get them. I've seen a preschooler who bumped into a chair get angry and kick the chair!

There's another aspect to the issue of blame. Preschoolers are just learning that they have some responsibility to control their own actions and are developing a conscience. Thus they are quick to judge right and wrong, and therefore assign blame to others, assigning fault.

Think of it as practice in making moral judgments, which young children often carry to extremes. Things are only black and white at this point, with no shades of grey between, related to intention or plans.

But one of the important lessons in friendship, and in life, is that sometimes things happen outside of our control, or that of others. Assigning blame or holding grudges diminishes happiness and relationships, and the sooner children can learn to pick up and move on, the more contented they will be.

A crucial life lesson is also achieving the understanding that nobody is perfect-not bears, or kids, or even parents. Learning to accept the fumbles and foibles of others and of ourselves is an important aspect of growing up.

With such important lessons within, no wonder this book has been on bestseller lists for months. But its charm lies in being a story that can be appreciated for its humor and recognizable feelings.

This book is not so much about trying to teach children a lesson, but rather providing an opportunity to let them learn. Do you see the difference?