Coming out of our house, I see my youngest son peeing all over our new patio. I’m incredulous, and tell him to get a bucket and wash the stones.
Later I ask how come he peed there. And here’s what he tells me–he was competing with his brother to see who could pee the farthest into the bushes. He was backing away while peeing to see how far it would go, and as he ran out of pee, it splattered on the stones.
We had a good laugh about that (along with my pang of paternal guilt). Then we agreed that the next peeing competition will be held on the lawn, well away from the patio.
It’s tempting to stop our child in his tracks when he screams in the car, throws a pine cone at his sister, turns his plate full of food onto the floor.
Sometimes you might have to–if whatever is happening is truly dangerous. Fortunately, it so rarely is.
Still, you might feel an irrisistible urge to master a situation. When you do–when you forcefully intervene–you’re placing control before connection.
Your relationship with your child–as any relationship–asks that your child feels safe with you, seen, respected, understood, no matter how odd the behavior might seem to you.
To paraphrase Alfie Kohn–assume your child’s best motives consistent with the facts.
When my son was peeing on the patio, I could have assumed he was playing, and just asked what was going on. To be honest, a bit of pee never hurt a patio.
All to say, there’s a good lesson here for the relational parent–connect with your child before you direct his behavior.