Recently I had a friend's 2 year old over for the day to play with George (4.5 yo). They were having loads of fun together, so I used the time to get on with other things (you know, exciting things such as cooking & putting washing away!! I may also have been scrolling on Facebook....).
They popped in for a bit of lunch but were then off playing again.
I started to hear raised voices so called down to see if they were OK. They said they were and seemed to be playing well again, so I left them to it.
And that's when things went awry....!
Because, although they were seemingly happy playing together - they had gone quiet..
Which, as we all know retrospectively, means trouble.
But at the time it's - "OK great, they're fine, I'll leave them to it".
After a while, George's little pal comes up to me and says that George has broken a window.
I go to check it out and, sure enough, there's a massive crack in a bedroom window.
Turns out George was throwing stones at the window.
Ah, OK...! He was standing a little way away, clearly remorseful & knowing that he did something he shouldn't have.
But I didn't blame him.
I didn't punish him.
I didn't even lecture or 'teach' him.
Instead I moved in tenderly because he's upset by what's happened.
I listen to the reasons why he did it (because his 2yo friend told him to)
And I reassure him that I love him and it's fixable.
Later on that evening, we gently talked about how, in future, it would be good to check in with himself first before doing something - to not do things just because someone else suggests it.
But, he's 4, and he's learning and testing - which is exactly what he should be doing.
What he actually needed instead was more regular contact with me, the responsible adult, during the day.
Because, when children feel connected with us, they are less likely to do things they know they shouldn't.
The situation would have been avoided if, every so often, I checked in on them. Not hovering all the time, but not leaving them to their own devices for hours either.
Those first raised voices I heard? That was the signal for me to take the time to reconnect - that things were starting to go off-track. With a hug, a quick game, something to re-centre them.
So because I didn't, George then followed the suggestion of a 2 year old to do something he knew wouldn't be good
The lessons from here?
- To be aware of the little signs that things are starting to go wrong. Don't expect that things will magically improve. There's always a sign before the off-track behaviour really kicks in.
- To take the initiative and regularly connect with your kids, including when they have friends over and are seemingly fine.
It doesn't mean you have to be controlling or interfering, or stop what they're doing. It just means maintaining the sense of connection so that things are less likely to go awry.
And you're less likely to end with a broken window...!
FREE GUIDE: Shout Less & Connect More with 5 SIMPLE Games!
Start to TRANSFORM your everyday parenting challenges with 5 easy games.
They're FUN, they're QUICK and they're FREE!