The glasses are all lined up on the cement in a perfect row. The sunlight dances off of the etched designs. The boy’s hair blows in the wind as he scours the gravel for his smooth stone picks. Rubbing the stones between his fingers, he stands at the glasses and takes ten paces to his throwing line. Launching his first stone, he smashes the first glass. The glass shatters and echoes off of the garage door. The boy stands tall and looks at the first glass, then smiles.
To the typical adult onlooker, this would be seen as a boy being bad. It would probably be looked at as a boy destroying property and being disrespectful. A behavior that would need discipline. As a young mother, I would have agreed.
Now look at it through the child’s eyes.
The boy does not see the glasses as being owned by someone, but just things from the house. And he loves hearing the sound of this material called glass smash over and over. It is such a fun sound. Plus, he can practice his aim which is a fun game. This boy doesn’t understand the concept of working for money to buy the glasses. His viewpoint is from within his own experience, and it seems like no one really cares about these glasses because they were stored way back in the cupboard. What a waste for them to be just sitting there! He wonders why adults don’t take out and smash glasses more often.
The only way an adult would understand the true motivation of the child to destroy the glasses would be to have a conversation with the boy. And to have a conversation, it would mean that the adult was coming to the situation with a loving demeanor and calmness. Crouching down to the child’s eye level and creating a space where the child could trust the adult enough to tell them their side of the story.
Perhaps, an older child would be smashing the glasses for another reason. Maybe they felt angry, which was really the cover up for being really sad. Maybe it felt good to smash an object and they had learned that it was a better alternative than hitting their sibling.
Are Kids Good or Bad?
The first thing I needed to change about my parenting was to be brutally honest with myself on what I believed about kids. Did I believe kids were inherently good, or inherently bad? I would have said that kids were good, yet my parenting was not congruent with this belief. There were times where I felt like my kids were doing things to purposefully hurt me or make my life difficult. Yah, that wasn’t really the truth, they were just being kids.
If I look at kids as being good, then I can focus on being a detective to uncover what their behaviors are really about. What they are trying to communicate with me because they can’t formulate the words or I haven’t been trustworthy enough for them to tell me. Are they needing an adult perspective on the situation like the shattering of the glasses? Are they really struggling with something painful that they are hiding and it is coming out in behaviors?
In my younger years, I would have punished my son for breaking the glasses with a time-out and scolding. Now, I would have a conversation with my son helping him to understand the bigger picture. I would explain to him how his dad works to buy us things like the glasses. I would talk to my son about how the glasses are not used very often because I use them for special occasions like Christmas.
Instead of punishment, the natural consequence would be for my son to help clean up the mess. With a really young child, he would hold the garbage bag while I put in the pieces. If he was able, he would do the sweeping. An older child would do chores around the house to earn the money and buy new glasses if it seemed necessary.
Shifting our viewpoint of children may need to start with shifting the viewpoint of ourselves. Do you believe your essence is good, that you are a good person? In order to believe this about our kids, we need to believe this about ourselves.
Parenting is an extension of who we are, and where we are at in our personal awareness and journey. The first step is to have the awareness that something is not working and the openness to hear about other options in raising our children. Then, we can make a true choice as to how we decide to parent instead of parenting from default.
You can do this.