Kids and accidents (which tend to require repairs around the house) go together like peanut butter and jelly. Whether their child has scribbled all over the walls or broken glass all over the kitchen floor, parents are often faced with the conundrum of how to respond: raise their voice and shame them—or try something else a bit more cool-headed. Ashley Kagan, the founder and co-owner of Play at Home Mom, recently shared how she went with the latter option.
On Facebook, Kagan posted a photo of a huge gash in a wall of her home. Alongside it, she wrote, "Our girls were messing around yesterday. One of them happened to put their body through the drywall. My 9-year-old came downstairs crying and frantic saying she had to show me something. I walked upstairs to the damaged wall. The remorse was already displayed all over her body."
Kagan wrote that her daughter didn't need her to make her feel guilty. She didn't need her to shame her. She didn't need her to "make an already crappy situation worse." When she said she was sorry, Kagan knew she was. The 9-year-old said her dad was going to be mad and that she wasn't ready to tell him yet, to which the mom responded, "That is OK. When you are ready, you will tell him."
Kagan wrote, "She knew. She knew that he was the one most impacted by this. He would be the one taking time from his day to fix this. I walked downstairs and told my husband. 'The kids put a hole in the wall. A big one. M is really upset about it. She’s working up the courage to come and tell you about it.'
She told her husband that they had two choices:
"1. Scream and yell and make her feel more awful than she already does.
2. Accept that little girl for each bit of awesome that she is... even in her mistakes. To realize that it was SO hard for her to come down and tell you how she made a mistake."
They knew their response would "100% determine" how their daughter would come to them with future mistakes.
Kagan continued, "Today, my daughter walks around with a little more trust. She walks around feeling loved and connected. She walks around knowing that she can tell her parents anything and that she is safe. This was the best gift I could ever receive this Christmas. And yes. She still feels sorry. She offered to not receive any Christmas presents this year, all her savings, and her time to help fix it. She didn’t need screaming parents to make her feel this. She did it all on her own."
The Play at Home Mom founder's story was met with an overwhelmingly positive, heartfelt response, earning 27K comments, many from parents who have been there before.
One commenter shared, "When I was around 9, I kicked a hole in the wall. I immediately claimed it to my mother. She just looked at me and told me to tell my dad when he got home. She lead me out to him in the garage when he arrived home. When I told him, his only response, 'Well, you will get to learn how to patch drywall.' I still remember that like it was yesterday and have approached my children's mistakes the same way."
Another wrote, "Yesterday, my 4-year-old was told NOT to touch the plate of cookies I’d made for the neighbors. He tried to surprise me by putting the cookies from the counter to the table, where I was going to wrap them up. Of course the cookies fell and landed on the floor. I was about to yell at him (I had just told him not to touch!!) but the look on his face told me he already felt bad enough."
Props to Kagan for being able to take a step back and consider the long-term effects of a particular disciplinary style. Not only has research shown that raising your voice doesn't work, but kids learn even more by having the opportunity to identify their emotions and work through them sans unnecessary shame and guilt. By reading about Kagan's experience, let's hope that other parents are inspired to take a moment and consider the best possible way to react to their child's inevitable missteps.