Growing up in the Philippines, conservation, recycling and reusing were already a huge part of daily living. I remember how our food was rationed so everyone in our large family can have enough to eat, I learned how to hand wash clothes and how to emotionally let go of things I really didn’t need. This combined with my systematic way of thinking led to a hand dish washing habit of premixing a couple drops of dish soap with a small bowl of water instead of periodically squirting soap on the sponge.
Well the other night, after dinner, Zachary (3 yrs old) was helping me clear the table, putting dirty dishes into the sink while I was putting away clean ones to make room on the drying racks. Just before running off, he says, “Hey Daddy, you still got soap in this one!” reaching up on tip-toe, he grabbed my dish soap bowl (that I had just prepared) and dump it in the sink.
Tiredness and the stresses of the day resulted in a knee jerk reaction, and I yelled, “ZACHARY! WHY DID YOU DUMP THE BOWL?!” I knew exactly why he dumped the bowl, he was trying to be helpful. My instinct told me to keep hammering him with emotional trauma so he never forgets the lesson: NEVER dump Daddy’s soap bowl. But in the back of my mind, I looked forward into the future and told my self “this is NOT how you want him to remember this moment” so I reached down just as his posture began to slump and his bottom lip began to stick out.
“I’m so sorry for yelling at you, Zachary. Can I show you something?”
I lifted him up so he could see above the sink and showed him how I wash the dishes. I took a sponge and squirted a drop of soap on it and washed a spoon, “This is how you wash dishes.”
Then I squirted another drop and washed a bowl.
Then I said, “but Daddy doesn’t want to waste any soap if we don’t need to.”
I squirted three drops into the bowl and poured some water into it. Then I proceeded to dip the sponge in the bowl and washed a couple of dishes. He was so intent on the process that he forgot about the emotional trauma I had just caused by yelling at him. At the same time, I was able to turn it into a learning opportunity.
I put him down on the ground and gave him a HUGE hug. “Thank you so much for being so helpful. I’m sorry for yelling at you. Do you forgive me?”
“Mmm hmm” he responded, and with a huge smile ran off to join his brother and sister.
I use this technique often. I call it the “making moments” technique. I pull myself away from the conflict and try to see it from my child’s perspective, or from a third person perspective then think, how do I want this moment to play out?
When I’m long gone, all they’ll have of me are the moments that are burned into their memories. My goal is that when that time comes, all they will have is undeniable proof that they are loved.