Your father died and you have had to make urgent plans to travel interstate. You and your spouse are upset but you try to get everything done in time to be able to get away. It is a difficult time packing and cleaning house and organising the children. You are beginning to stress out because time is short and the children are not co-operating.
You have just finished cleaning the kitchen when your 5 year old runs into the kitchen and goes to the refrigerator for some milk. As he pulls out the bottle it slips through his fingers and falls to the floor, shattering and spilling milk everywhere. You are already upset because of your father’s death and stressed because your time is short and you should be leaving soon. There is milk over everything in the refrigerator; it is all over the floor and up the cupboards. As well, you are going to have to move the refrigerator and mop up the milk that has gone all the way to the back. You know you have to clean it properly or there will be an awful smell through the house when you arrive home in a week’s time. You think of the time it will take to clean up. You are ready to explode and then you see the look of utter devastation on his little face as he says “I didn’t mean to. It was a accident”. What do you do?
You can go ahead and explode, yell at the child and call him names and even spank him but what good would that do? Does it clean up the mess? What it will do is cause further pandemonium which sends your stress levels through the roof. You could spank your son but that just causes fear and it teaches nothing about learning from the mistake. It merely invites the child to hide other mistakes or to strike back if he dares. His resultant anger or hurt may cause him to hit his siblings (after all, you started it by hitting him) or taking it out on the cat. Your aggressive approach may also lead to a cycle of disagreements with your child where everything he does is wrong and you keep pointing it out. All this negative activity will cause the child more grief and then you will have to spend time calming him down later. That is time you do not have and it is not a good start for everyone travelling together on a long journey in a vehicle. Remember, every aggressive thought you have will attract another problem and every helpful thought you have will attract good things.
As upset as you are, you need to be able to say “So what! The accident has happened so let’s get on with it and all help to clean up the mess”. After all, it’s not what has happened that matters most; it is how you feel about what has happened that is important. You should calm down, get down on your haunches to the child’s level and call him over to you. Make sure there is a smile on your face and give him a big hug and tell him you love him and that you understand it was an accident. It is wise to understand that it has been a shock for him as well as everyone else; however, it would be unhelpful to make excuses for him (“Oh, he is only 5”). That will only teach the child to make excuses when he makes other mistakes. At the same time, call your spouse to bring a mop and bucket and ask everyone in the family to help with the cleaning. Make it a positive family time together and take a stand against strife.
Have your 5 year old help too. He may be able to use some kitchen paper or a sponge to help clean the cupboards. You will have to wash them down afterwards, but you are including him in the clean up and he will feel he is doing something to make up for his mistake. If everyone helps and no-one is allowed to apportion blame, the kitchen will be cleaned up in a very short time and you will be back on track to make the journey.
Teaching your child to do things more slowly to avoid making mistakes and creating accidents is better done later in a calm and happy atmosphere rather than in an atmosphere of guilt and punishment. Mistakes and accidents are a part of life and you, as a parent, can help your children grow up in an atmosphere of love and with a sense of safety and peace.
Whenever your child does something naughty they must know there are consequences of their action. However, always make it quite clear that the consequences are as a result of the misdemeanour and they have nothing to do with your love for the child. Always let them know you will never take your love away and always show that love. Children learn by your actions, not by what you say. If you always show love and respect for your children they will love and respect you in return.