Imagine if you spilt water at a restaurant…
Imagine if you were in a restaurant and you bumped and spilt your water all over the table. The waitress comes flying over and starts to wipe it up. She loudly says, “What is your problem?” You split water last time you were here. Why can’t you be more careful? The room quiets and you notice all eyes on you. You try to help but she pushes your hand away saying angrily, “Oh no, I will do it. You will probably just make it worse.”
She shakes her head at you while she moves the plates and forks away from the puddle. She returns with a kid’s cup with a cover and a straw. “You need to use this from now on because you will probably just spill as soon as I leave the table. Now eat, I didn’t bring food for you to just sit and stare at it!” She exclaims.
How are you feeling? Mortified, embarrassed, ready to run?
How are you feeling about the waitress? Do you think you will leave her a big tip?
Will you request her next time you come to this restaurant if you ever even come to this restaurant again?
How does the food taste? Can you even remember what you ordered?
By this time do you even care?
What is the message? “You, idiot, you can’t even manage a simple glass of water. You are incapable of cleaning up after yourself. You can’t be trusted to not make that mistake again.”
It’s funny because we often treat children like this and expect them to take it without any backlash or follow up misbehavior.
We expect them to sit there while they are berated and embarrassed. Then we give them the message that they are helpless and worthless and then we expect them to eat their vegetables.
Hey I know, try this on your partner and see what the rest of the night is like. (No, really don’t…)
These paradigms that help understand you become a more empathetic parent
Mistakes are inevitable and can be a wonderful learning opportunity. If mistakes are embraced as such then parents are not angry when kids make mistakes, they look for the learning to take place.
Anger, frustration, embarrassing and shaming kids break your relational connection. If you are not connected with your kids, you lose your influence on them. Replacing those ineffective responses with empathy keeps you in relationship and keeps the kid focused on the problem to be solved rather on how the parent is treating them.
Taking responsibility and fixing a problem is the consequence. If your child fixes the problem, make it right… you don’t need to heap another consequence onto that. That is what will sabotage the learning and take you out of relationship.
Now, Your Kid Spills Water…
“Oh boy, the water spilt, how are you going to clean that up?
(Empathy, no anger ….. A you CAN do it approach. Making sure they know whose responsibility it is)
Do you need help scooting these plates over while you wipe up?
Do you want a towel or a sponge?
(Partnering with them for success. Giving them a choice.)
Looks like it’s all wiped up.
(Noticing the job is complete, avoid praising or criticizing)
Great, lets enjoy our dinner.
(Kid feels competent. Job is done. Everyone is in great relationship)
Now, here is where it can go down hill fast.
What if you had this wonderful experience and then you added a consequence.
“Because you spilt that you cannot have dessert!”
What happens next? The great feeling of success in the child is dashed. The relational connection is broken. The child is mad at you and thinking that is not fair!
What if the waitress told you, you couldn’t have dessert after it was all cleaned up? Would you leave the restaurant and stop somewhere else for a treat and think… well, I’ll show her!
Don’t our kids do the same thing?
Why do we treat kids in a manner we would never treat other adults and when they react to it negatively they get into trouble?
Things to consider:
- Mistakes are an opportunity to learn
- Empathy, instead of anger and frustration
- Allow kids to fix their own problems when they can
- Consequences do not have to cause pain
- Keep Connected!