Children have reasons for what they do

A self-portrait by my daughter
Self-portrait

A conversation I had this morning with my teenage daughter brought back this old memory. An incident that had made me want to kick myself at the time, firstly because I had made my daughter cry, secondly because I had read the situation completely wrong.

When she was about three, my daughter got her first Magna Doodle. She used it all day, drawing and erasing, completely absorbed in it. Next day I saw that the cord attaching the stylus to the board had been cut. I asked her what happened, and she said she cut it with scissors. I immediately reacted, quite sharply, “YOU used the scissors? You could’ve hurt yourself . . . didn’t I say you mustn’t?” She burst into tears, her little body heaving as she sobbed. I held her close, comforted her, and she calmed down a bit, and so did I.

Then I asked in a way she knew I wasn’t angry anymore, “Why did you cut it, darling?” She pointed to the corner of the board farthest from the corner where the cord was attached and said, “My drawing was going till here and the pencil didn’t reach…”

My poor baby – she had a valid reason! I gave her a hug and said, “Sorry, sweetheart, Mamma didn’t know that. Mamma was scared you could’ve hurt yourself with scissors”.  Then we joined the cut ends of the cord with a piece of strong twine so it was longer. I replaced the stylus in its slot and said, “There now, it won’t get lost”. She looked happy because she felt she had been understood and her problem solved – at least I hoped so.

And I  felt that, at some level, she had understood Mamma’s fear too. Even granting that was just wishful thinking, what had passed between us was a step towards understanding each other better, towards building trust.

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