14 March 2008

Making judgements about messes

A lesson in what we say vs what they hear... This week I have forgotten myself once or twice and put moral judgement on an action performed by the lively and naturally thoughtless three year old. Two incidents I directly remember last week, so that you can see what I mean by moral judgement.

Jenna was building, Morgan was building, when Jenna suddenly had a hissy fit and said Morgan wasn't allowed to play with the bricks any more. They had been playing nicely alongside each other and neither had touched the other's building efforts. It was just a sudden desire to be alone. I said that Morgan was not going to move just now, she was happy playing, and it would make her sad to be sent away. Jenna insisted, getting louder and crosser and threatening to throw bricks. I moved Morgan before she got hurt, and said something like, "It's selfish and mean not to let her play with you. That isn't fair."

(By the way, if a brick actually HAD been thrown the consequence would have been that they get put away for safety, but rather than come to that point by insisting that Morgan play I was playing permissive mummy and moved the baby. Not only a bad move in general, but leading me to try to guilt her into playing fairly. I should probably have given the choice to play with Morgan, put the bricks away, or go somewhere where the bricks can be played with without making Morgan feel left out - and get the bigger bricks out for Morgan if that was what she chose.)

A couple of days later Jenna had poured something out in the bathroom (again). If anyone knows a way to keep her out of there without either locking it or her bedroom (the former unfeasible due to the shape of the frame, the latter cruel) please, suggestions asap! I said that I was really unhappy that my conditioner was gone, and that I was dissapointed she had been so wasteful and thoughless.

(Seems fair? It was really just disrespectful and hurtful. The best reaction in my opinion would simply have been to have her help clear up - and the next step would have been for her to help me pay for a new bottle from her piggy bank as she does this fairly often in spite of the conditioner being on the top shelf and her needing to fetch a stool to reach it! She needs to know that being wasteful costs us money, and if she wants to play at pouring away something expensive fair enough but she will have to buy it herself.)

This week, sitting listening to someone talk about Easter... "God forgives us when we are cruel and hurtful and unkind and selfish..." And Jenna's little voice pipes up sadly, "Mummy says I'm selfish." :(

So there you go, in a nutshell. A good reason to focus on consequences and not blame. Because she can't differentiate between a selfish action and a selfish person - because when I judge something she did I place a value on *her* (at least in her eyes). Sobering, isn't it?

Ways to help a damaged relationship recover from hurtful words, on a postcard to this address...

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