Mnookin: Dancing The Floss

Jan 24, 2019

A few days ago, my child came home from school dismayed that two kids from her class had made fun of her doing the floss.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a dance move in which Wikipedia says “a person repeatedly swings their arms, with clenched fists, from the back of their body to the front, on each side.”

It’s entertaining, celebratory, and widely popular; my kid’s first-grade class takes floss dance breaks to interrupt stationary desk work.

My child looks forward to these movement breaks, and our family sometimes dances along to the videos at home in the evening. She bops around, learning the moves, and admiring the older kids in the video. But getting teased made her self-conscious and reluctant to do the floss at school anymore.

After she and I talked more about it, I emailed her teacher and the kids’ parents to find an amicable solution.

I was struck by how quickly and compassionately everyone responded. The parents spoke with their children about empathy and other people’s feelings, and each of the kids made a card to apologize.

One of the parents also asked if, knowing my child better, I could think of something else that might help the situation. In turn, I asked my child, who responded without hesitation that she’d like to schedule playdates with each of them. Her rationale was clear: Good friends who play together outside of school must be less likely to tease each other in school.

Several recent parenting articles have warned of the limitations of forcing kids to say they’re sorry; apologies may not be genuine and different people have different needs for making amends. For my kid, hearing them say they were sorry didn’t feel as valuable as spending time together and getting to know each other better. For her, deepening a friendship created a more tangible way to build compassion and trust.

Recently, one of the kids came over to our house to play. They ate apple slices smeared with peanut butter, they built elaborate wheeled cars with legos, they used walkie talkies to whisper from one room to another.

And then they danced the floss.

Together.