1TPD#2: But what was the crime?

A short parenting story with a universal lesson

1TPD#2: But what was the crime?
Created with the assistance of DALL·E 3.

Hi folks,

Recently I overpowered my child and felt guilty afterwards. I want to share pieces of that story and the one thing I took away from it.

The backdrop: our daughter is learning to go to the toilet, weaning off of diapers. It’s taken over a month now and she does it right most of the time. Little accidents happen here and there during naps.

She’d want to pee, and she’d walk to her portable potty in the living room and do her business, wipe herself, and move on.

But it seems she’s going through a phase of testing boundaries. What happens if I don’t do what he says?, is what I imagine her thinking in her capable mind.

One day recently, she tested a boundary.

My wife was reminding her to pee as it felt like it was time. She proceeded to the toilet bowl, as per usual, but she did something different. She stood right next to it and urinated in her pants and onto the floor.

My wife’s jaw dropped. Mine followed. She had never so boldly gone against what we’d been saying to her before. It may sound like a trivial transgression — the kid peed on the floor, so you tell her not to do it and move on, what’s the big deal? — but we didn’t feel that way.

This wasn’t about getting pissed at having to clean up (well that’s a weird sentence), it’s about a terrible attitude in the person whom you’re trying your best every day to help grow into a decent person.

I’ll save you from the details of what happened next, and how it escalated our emotions, and skip to the part where I, in my rage, threw her into her room and asked her to reflect on her actions.

Threw. Yes, I didn’t just carry her and drop her in her room, I practically shoved her (lightly) onto the floor, causing her to fall on fours. She was already crying before that, and she cried louder after.

It’s hard for me to recount this because I feel terribly guilty for having done what I did. It doesn’t matter that it was carpeted floor. I remember the thoughts that went through my head immediately after I shut her door:

I shouldn’t have done that.
I’m her dad… I’m supposed to be the only person in the world who will unconditionally protect and love her!!
Isn’t testing boundaries a healthy thing, dummy? How else will a child learn what those are and what the consequences might be?

That question stuck in my mind. What have I just taught her about the consequences of not listening to us, of willfully doing the wrong thing?

That she will be roughly handled? And that this is normal?

Jesus, what am I teaching her?! It’s NOT okay to be treated this way, not for peeing on the floor, not for anything.

That was the moment. It was like something snapped into place.

The "crime" was peeing on the floor.

The response was being shoved to the floor.

Was the response proportionate to the crime?

No. Hell no. It was way off!

The click in my head was followed by these words:

Respond proportionately to the crime. Don’t respond proportionately to the intensity of your emotion.

Next time I’m in a position to respond and emotions are high, I’m asking myself, but what was the crime? And I’ll act proportionately to it.

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