Scene: I’m finishing up bagging the protein bars I’ve just made. My daughter is eating the crumbs she requested that I’ve put in a bowl for her. She tells me she’s finished and wants to dump the remaining crumbs in the garbage can. I say, “No, let’s save them for later.” She says, “No save for later, I want to dump them.” I approach her, ready to take the bowl from her to save for later and she dumps the bowl on the floor.
Let’s look my two possible responses:
1. I calmly pick up Margaret. I firmly and lovingly tell her that it was rude to dump the crumbs on the floor and that I am frustrated that she did so. I hold her for a few more moments and give her a kiss. I then ask her to clean up the crumbs and she does so willingly.
2. I firmly pick up Margaret. I walk to her room, put her down, and close the door. As she screams at the top of her lungs, begging to be let out, I finish bagging the protein bars.
Take a guess at which one happened.
You got it, #2.
I stood in the kitchen, not frustrated with Margaret, but rather angry with myself. I thought, “I need to stop making her room a ‘bad’ place. I can’t keep using it as punishment.” My daughter’s room needs to be a safe place and a calm place for playing and resting.
After I had taken a minute to cool down, I went to Margaret’s room, opened the door, and asked, “Are you ready to clean up your crumbs?” She nodded her head, tears in her eyes. She reached for me and I picked her up, holding her close. She put her head on my shoulder. As I walked towards the kitchen, she cried, “I want to call Dada.”
I sat down, tears in MY eyes now. I thought, “I’m becoming the enemy.” Sure, Margaret has been a Daddy’s girl for several months now. But I knew that in this instance, she wanted her dad because I had been so unloving to her.
I held Margaret for a few more minutes as she calmed down. I then said, “Okay, let’s clean up your crumbs now.” She looked at my face and saw a tear. She ran to grab a paper towel, wiped my face, and said, “There, that’s better.”
I walked to the area of the floor covered in crumbs. Margaret said, “Can I help, Mama?” I laughed to myself and said, “Sure honey.” I grabbed her a couple of wet paper towels and gave them to her. As I was writing this, Margaret was willingly (and joyfully) cleaning up her mess.
I was the one who needed a time-out; not her.
All the hot mess above could have been avoided if I had simply chosen response #1. Seriously, it’s not that big of a deal if my kid to dumps a bowl food on the floor, even if it’s in spite.
A few weeks back in my moms group at church we discussed forgiveness. We also discussed how relationships must come before obedience. We’re ruining our relationships with our kids when we lash out every time they disobey. Instead of yelling or spanking, we need to hold them close and show them love. From there we can discuss the wrongdoing and what needs to happen moving forward.
I can tell you with almost 100% certainty that scenario #1 would have happened had I chosen that response. Instead, I chose to lash out. If I was too frustrated in that moment to show love, I could have stepped out of the room, taken a few deep breaths, reminded myself that it’s not that big of a deal, then headed back into the kitchen for scenario #1.
P.S. Margaret finished cleaning up the mess and now wants me to build a castle with her. How easily young children forgive wrongdoings and move on. Why can’t we do the same?
P.P.S. In another moms group meeting, my group discussed giving ourselves grace for the times we do lash out at our kids. So if you find yourself in a situation when you’ve made a poor choice in disciplining your children, give yourself a break. We’re all imperfect and we make mistakes. Let’s learn from them and move on.
Here’s what I want to hear from you – when was the most recent experience that YOU needed a time-out? Did you take it, or did you lash out? What can you learn from that experience?