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How to Respond When Your Child Breaks Something Valuable

This Mom's Reaction to Her Daughter Putting a Hole in the Wall Is a Seriously Good Lesson in Parenting

Our girls were messing around yesterday. One of them happened to put their body through the drywall. My nine year old...

Posted by Play at Home Mom on Tuesday, December 24, 2019

I talk a big game about how I want my kids to be kids and run and play and make messes, but I also am a Type-A control freak. So in the few instances when my child's playful spirit caused the breaking of a plate on the hardwood floor, or the spilling of juice on our new rug, or the smashing of a sentimental object I thought was high enough out of their reach on our bookshelf, I admit I didn't react well.

My husband would say I reacted poorly. Very poorly.

So when Ashley Kagan, the founder and co-owner of Play at Home Mom, recounted a similar scenario with her daughter and how she chose to keep her cool instead of raising her voice, I was a captive audience.

Her children were "messing around" recently, and "one of them happened to put their body through the drywall," she said in a now-viral Facebook post. Her 9-year-old ran downstairs in tears, and frantically brought Ashley up to see the damaged wall.

"The remorse was already displayed all over her body," she said. "She didn't need me to make her feel guilty. She didn't need me to shame her. She didn't need me to make an already crappy situation worse."

Here is how the conversation went:

Child: "I'm sorry!"
Mom: "I know you are."
Child: "Daddy is going to be so mad! I'm not ready to tell him yet."
Mom: "That is OK. When you are ready, you will tell him."

Ashley could tell that her daughter realized this would be most impactful to her dad, who would be the one taking time from his day to fix it. So, she prepped her husband by saying, "The kids put a hole in the wall. A big one. She is really upset about it. She's working up the courage to come and tell you about it."

"My daughter walks around with a little more trust. She walks around knowing that she can tell her parents anything and that she is safe."
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From Ashley's perspective, she had two choices. She could do what many do in the heat of the moment — scream and yell and punish and make her feel worse than she already does. Or, she could take a positive approach and accept her child for who she is, even in her mistakes. "Realize that it was so hard for her to come down and tell you how she made a mistake," she said.

Like I've seen first-hand, these moments set a parenting precedent. "Our response will 100-percent determine how she comes to us with mistakes in the future," Ashley warned.

She gave grace instead of anger, her daughter is better for it. "My daughter walks around with a little more trust," she said. "She walks around feeling loved and connected. She walks around knowing that she can tell her parents anything and that she is safe."

Ashley reiterated why parents like me don't need to pile on — or even enforce some disciplinary measure — in these moments: "Yes, she still feels sorry. She offered . . . all her savings and her time to help fix it. She didn't need screaming parents to make her feel this. She did it all on her own."

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