Want your child to be creative, curious and take risks? Don't do what I did.
It was rapidly approaching bedtime and the girls had finished dinner. I was in a bit of a rush. We were heading out for dinner for the first time in some time (#COVID #smallchildren #ilovestayingin #melbournewinter) and I was keen to get the bedtime routine moving.
I offered the girls ice-cream and unsurprisingly, they accepted. I started stacking the dishwasher, cleaning up spilt milk, and mentally going through my to do list.
“Mum! I said, can you put this in the microwave?”.
I turned to my just turned 5 year old. “The microwave? What do you mean?”. She replied “you know*, put my ice-cream in there”, pointing to the microwave.
I felt instantly annoyed. Frustrated. Impatient. I explained twice why it wasn’t logical to heat something which is specifically designed to be frozen. I said it would ruin it. She insisted. In my mind the story I was telling myself was ‘why can’t you just make this easy?’
In the end I relented and put her bowl of ice-cream into the microwave for 30secs. I then placed it (not very gently I might add) on the bench, and said “fine. Here it is. I’m feeling frustrated and I’m going to go and calm my body down”.
I went into the study and took a breath. Almost instantly, I realised that I’d been a bit of a knob. That I had blown a bit of curiosity (which I intentionally aim to foster) way out of proportion.
A few minutes later, my daughter walked in. She jumped up on my lap and I looked into her eyes and said something to the effect of “hey, I’m sorry. I was so distracted by the things that I was doing that I made you putting your ice-cream in the microwave a really big deal. I pretty much flipped my lid. I thought it was a crazy idea but here’s the thing - history is full of people with crazy ideas who end up inventing planes or crossing Antartica or finding cures for diseases, and they changed the world. I love your ideas and how you experiment with things. Maybe microwaved ice-cream is delicious? I never even thought of doing it. I’m really sorry”
Her reply: “That’s ok**…. Actually, it tasted pretty bad”
And I then offered her some more ice-cream.
You may not share the same philosophy as me when it comes to parenting and maybe your approach is different – maybe you think the microwave was too wild an ask. That’s ok – a lot of parenting is about what feels right for you and there are 1000s of ways to be a good parent.
But I’d argue that good parenting definitely involves recognising when you’ve acted like a bit of a twit, acknowledging it and saying sorry. It shows our kids that it is ok not to be right or perfect, that they deserve our respect, and that when any of us get something wrong, it’s cool to take responsibility for it.
In return our children show us how to gracefully accept apologie