- Publish Date
- Thursday, 21 June 2018, 9:52AM
- By John Cowan
One of my earliest memories: me, aged four, standing on a work bench in our orchard’s packing shed, smashing the glass out of a window with a hammer. And then my older brother taunting me with great glee that I was going to get a hiding from Dad. (By the way, I didn’t get a hiding; in fact, I don’t recall my parents ever smacking me). Years later I can still remember my emotion when my brother teased me: it was indignation at the injustice of it! I thought I was being helpful! The window was already broken – I was just tidying it up, knocking the last bits of glass out of the frame. Admit it: you were thinking the same as my brother – in your imagination you saw me as a little vandal smashing windows just for the devilish glee of destroying something. But my motives were pure even if my actions were very silly and wrong. My parenting tip: don’t be too quick to assume evil motives behind what kids do. I discovered my little kids digging muddy holes in our back yard with a spade. Vandalism!? No. They had heard me say I wanted to put a drain in that swampy area of lawn and they thought they were helping. A Mum I know caught her son knocking a hole in the wall with a hammer – he was trying to hang up a picture for her. My nephew destroyed a vacuum cleaner trying to clean a fish tank, doing the same helpful thing he had seen his Dad do at the swimming pool. (The fish were recovered from the vacuum cleaner bag, fluff-coated but alive). Great motives, but immature actions. So when you see your toddler drowning the cat – are they trying to give it a bath? When they smother your baby – are they meaning to give it a hug? This is why we need to use ‘parent vision’ – using our wisdom to look behind their actions to understand their motives. Sure, we will correct their behaviour, but see it as a teachable moment, and not something that deserves anger and punishment.
By the way, now that I think about it, I am pretty sure those windows were actually broken by my brother with his slug gun…. and wouldn’t defend his motives at all!
John has been with The Parenting Place (www.theparentingplace.com) for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter. He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital. As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.
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