Mr. Adams heard a crash in the next room and got up to investigate. As he got to the door, he caught a look from his 10 year old son, Alex. “Boy! What did you do?” he bellowed. “It was an accident. I was going to watch TV and just touched it for a second as I came around the couch, Papa.” His dad began to take his belt out from the loops in his pants, steam seemingly swirling up from his ears.
Alex began to back away and he started to cry. “Papa, it was an accident.” “All accidents are preventable, Son. You weren’t careful.” Alex got to the door to the back yard and paused. He looked back at his angry dad approaching him. “Don’t you run from me, boy. You’ll just get more licks if you do. Take your punishment and learn your lesson. Be more careful.” Alex thought a moment and retreated back into the room, resigned to the licking.
I hope that is not a scene from the story unfolding in your house. Alex’ dad chose to parent by fear and power, under the guise of teaching his son a lesson in being more careful. But who benefitted from this punishment? Not Alex. Oh, Alex may have chosen to be more careful in the future, to avoid another beating. But that’s not a teachable moment. That’s survival.
A mindful parent, whose focus is on relationship, as well as accountability, would have handled this situation differently.
Mr. Adams heard a crash in the next room and got up to investigate. He found his son, Alex, standing over a broken vase on the floor. “What happened, Son?” “It was an accident, Dad.” “You didn’t mean to knock the vase off the table?” “No, of course not.” “Okay, what needs to be done now?” Dad then got a dust mop and a broom from the closet and handed them to Alex. As Alex cleaned up the mess, Dad noted that the vase needed to be replaced and asked how that was going to happen. He also noted that the vase was his mom’s favorite, in that it came from grandma’s home and matched the room’s décor so well. Alex and his dad agreed to dig into Alex’ savings account and dad would take him to the store to find a replacement vase. When mom got home that evening, Alex agreed to explain to her what happened, present her with the replacement vase, and apologize for his carelessness. That series of natural consequences not only captures a teachable moment between dad and Alex, it is way better than punishment.