Grace, my four year old granddaughter, was unhappy with a painting she was working on. I encouraged her to make some changes, or start a new one.
Instead she started whining. This went on for a while. She then knocked over the glass of water she had been using to clean her brushes and water covered my phone.
I yelled at her.
This upset her and she started crying. She left the room.
She is not used to being yelled at. Yelling is a poor, lazy parenting technique and I decided years ago to stop using it.
I gave her some time to calm went over to the couch she was laying on.
“Grace, are we done being mad at each other so we can talk”
She turned away.
“Grace, we will talk later, but I want you to know I love you”.
She turned around, her eyes full of light, a smile on her face, and she grabbed my neck and hugged me hard, “Grandpa you do love me.”
My heart was crushed that I had caused her to doubt my love for her for even a moment.
I was reminded how easy a child’s feelings get hurt. She thought she had lost my love because I was upset.
Four year olds see things in extremes. An unkind word, or a raised voice, has more impact than many people realize. Words and tones must be chosen with care. When caregivers are upset they need to careful with what they say and how they say it. It is often prudent to step away and calm down before dealing with a child.
Children need to be reminded that you love them. They need to hear it often, and see it practiced. Make it a habit to daily tell your child how much they mean to you.
It is also important for caregivers to own their mistakes. I told her I was sorry and owned what I did wrong.
Too often caregivers think they should not apologize. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When a caregiver makes a mistake a sincere apology is needed, and the sooner the better. And it needs to be a real apology, not one coupled with what the child did wrong. That lesson is best reserved for a later time.
Fortunately, children are resilient, and quick to forgive. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing, and having a good time. She should soon forget that I yelled at her.
I will never forget that hug she gave me.