Friday, 1 October 2010

Praising destructive behaviour

Generally when children break things, material things, is it or a good or a bad thing?

During the school summer holidays my boy created quite a catalogue of destruction, yet some of it left me positively beaming.

I don't remember ever being praised for breaking anything as a child, perhaps I was and I don't recall, but there are a couple of things my lad put into the BER category (Beyond Economical Repair) that I hope he remembers my reaction to forever.

The first was a 21” diameter plant pot, and I know its exact size as I tried to source a replacement.

I bought my boy a new bike this summer. He had outgrown his old one, and I spotted an ideal place to buy a bigger version (they did trade-ins) and an opportune place to encourage him to learn to ride a bike without stabilisers.

The place was where my parents have a static caravan.

The site has a decently sized grass hill, that I deemed brilliant for teaching a five-year-old to ride their bike.

All was going swimmingly, the hill was steep enough for him to not really have to peddle, thus concentrate on balancing, and, much more importantly, save me the bother of actually having to push him.

Such was his progress I went to fetch his grandparents to watch him ride from the top to the bottom of this hill.

My boy, confident from his recent improvements, set off.

Getting quicker, and quicker, and quicker.

And at the same time my dad was saying: “He does know how to brake? He does know how to brake? He does know how to brake?”

You can see where this is going right?


Straight into that plant pot.

Make that newly obliterated plant pot.

I ran down the hill heart in mouth.

He was OK.

The plant pot was not.

We tried to salvage her.

But she ended up still being BER.

After checking he was OK I told him how brilliant he had been to the point of impact, and that I bet he couldn't do it again.

His face changed. From not being sure, thinking he was in trouble, to one of a cheeky smirk and confidence. He even went and had another go straight afterwards, albeit after familiarisation with the workings of brakes.

I hope I reacted in the right way, not overly concerning myself with apportioning blame. Blame I wholehearted accepted and absolved him from.

But more so focused on the excellence of actually now being able to ride, and crash, a bike.

The second destructive act I cheered him for was when he split a polystyrene body-board in half.

Again something borne out of his summer improvements.

Last year he wasn't really interested in surfing waves, more so being knocked over by them.

But this summer he cracked it, riding a body-board all the way to the beach, hence running out of water, and thus breaking a board in half.

My reaction?

“Wow son, that was absolutely awesome. Look how far you went? You are brilliant.”

And again his face changed.

I explained to him that I remembered doing similar as a child, much older than him though, and that it just meant he needed a more robust board.

A board we already had.

One he was on. Merrily surfing to the shore, about two minutes later.

What can I say?

He's a smasher.