My four-and-a-half year old son is as independent as it gets, unless we’re visiting extended relatives that are new to him every time we visit, every couple of years.
So he’s rummaging downstairs in our unfinished basement. This place is full of treasures to a boy his age and full of junk waiting to be thrown or organized by me.
There’s nothing too toxic down there, so I hadn’t thought much about it. And there is a designated office space where he can drive Matchbox cars. But then he turned the corner and my wife could see (and hear) from the top of the stairs that he is playing with my power drill.
The battery was charged and he was revving it full bore with the Phillips-head screw driver spinning on the end, and my wife kindly asked him to put it down. And then I reacted with a shout, “What is he doing! Hey, put that down!”
Yes, it was abrupt of me, but I’m trying to keep his safety. (Maybe I could do that by putting my tools away.) So I wanted to get my point across, and I snapped a little at him to do just that.
He came up sniffling, with tears in his eyes. A mix of remorse, shame and probably anger fueled the protective surrender. I’ve been there. I’m in trouble, so I’m going play I’m sorry. But the truth is in hindsight, there is a more impactful way of handing the situation.
As my intelligent wife points out, you can get the same result through a loving, caring conversation, too.
So why do I yell? When I really think about it, I want him to feel bad and not pickup the drill next time for fear of more yelling.
This particular study by the Journal of Marriage and Family says 90% of Americans utilize “psychological aggression” in disciplining their kids. And these are parents with kids under the age of two that have used at least one episode within the last 12 months.
The article goes on to focus on the effect in adolescence, causing the young teenager to feel rejected or that their parents don’t like them.
Now, relating such feelings toward God, I can tell you that I gave up on that relationship quickly when I thought he didn’t like me. I have to ask myself, would I want my young adult child (who I can’t even imagine as a teenager at this time) to turn away from me as I turned away from God.
I can tell you my life didn’t go very well when I tried to run it on my own, so I now work to keep a relationship with God.
Mirroring this to the relationships I hope to have with my kids, I hope they see me as someone who does care. So maybe next time, instead of snapping at the use of a power drill I could walk down the basement and explain, in a caring a loving way, what the tool is and why it is a grownup tool. God willing.