It’s quiet. Ahhh, the peace.
Hang on. You realize. This is not a good sign. Quiet is NEVER good.
You carefully get up from your barely-warmed-up seat and tiptoe towards the danger zone, creeping closer and closer like a stealth soldier. Peering ever so slightly into their room you see…
Fill in the blanks – but you know it’s not innocent.
For me it was the good old felt tip marker on the walls. My daughter was three and she was the quiet but destructive type. I don’t think she was intentionally evil but she had an inquisitive mind and so was very into cause-and-affect (ie. If I put the marker here, it leaves a pretty squiggle there. Oh, fun!).
I remember it explicitly. I walked in not knowing whether to laugh, cry, yell or smack. Whether to quickly capture the moment on my phone or immediately launch into scrubbing the wall within its life.
In this moment, it’s hard to know what to do.
This is the moment when we often throw out poorly thought out punishments, irrational words (perhaps screamed at the top of our lungs) and hurtful gestures. Often we think back after the heat of the moment and think ‘I wish I handled that better’. But which way, and how?
I often say that having a plan is better than no plan. When I was presented with this moment I had started my ‘How to talk so kids listen’ journey but it was by no means fluent. I needed backup.
I left the scene of the crime and headed to my pantry where I kept some ‘help!’ flashcards for moments just like these. Conveniently this was also where I kept the lolly jar which also provided a calm down/time out sugar hit.
Rehearsing in my head, I marched back up the stairs, past the police tape – and was met with a ‘what’s going on?’ look from the culprit. I’d also calmed down a lot and felt armed (whereas before I felt like my arms were up in the air).
“You’ve drawn on the walls!” I described.
“Paper is for drawing on – not walls!” I gave information.
“You can fix this with a bucket of soapy water and a cloth” I suggested (actually more like demanded).
It worked. She agreed. Maybe she was relieved I didn’t yell, smack or chastise. Or maybe she realized she had made a mistake and wanted to make amends. Either way, she scrubbed and scrubbed until those marks had almost disappeared.
Keeping your cool in situations like these is hard, especially if WE are tired, stressed or emotional about something else. Our kids can make us rage like a bucking bull! However, had I of taken away her toys or banned her from TV would she draw on the wall again? Probably. But actually spending that time scrubbing off the walls made her realize – ‘boy, this is hard work!’ And by giving information such as ‘paper is for drawing on’ it is stating an expectation for the future.
So, next time you are enjoying the silence and then realize there must be something going down – check yourself first. Keep it cool and in control. Go in armed…. and remember notes in the pantry never go astray – especially if there’s a lolly jar nearby.