I was in a rush the other night to get dishes done and things prepped for the morning so that I could get to some things I wanted to do. As I buzzed through the kitchen, making good progress I heard a water noise from the dining room. When I turned I saw that my kindergartner had accidentally spilled a large glass of water.
My very first thought was: “Really?! Now?” and then I said calmly: “Accidents happen, it’s ok.” Alan was calm and not upset by it all. Then I added: “Run, grab a towel from the hall towel hamper and wipe it up, please.” He ran off and came right back and cleaned it all up (thankfully it was water!)
First let me just say: that type of calm response was not something I always did. It took me years of practice to make that my default response to such situations.
Secondly, the thing I saw from this brief and peaceful interaction was that the message I gave was more than just: “Accidents happen” (which is certainly important to learn in life). What I realized in that moment when he ran off to get the towel was twofold:
- when we remove impatience and yelling from a difficult moment, a kid has a chance to learn something
- when an accident happens the child learns that he or she is responsible for the solution (in most cases) not mom
Had I lost my cool and yelled, then most likely, I would have stormed over and cleaned it up myself thereby communicating: “When you make a mess, just get away from it and I’ll just clean it up myself!”
(now there’s definitely a place for taking over the clean up, I’ve sent kids away from toilet play because that was just not an area I wanted them in!)
But because there was calm, there was space to think and respond constructively.
So next time a kid spills or breaks something try reminding him or her that accidents do happen and find a way for them to help make it better in whatever way they can.
Now, I’ll never love the daily spills or breaks, but this mindset about them does make them less awful…just slightly!
You’ve got this, mamas!
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