Last night Jedd and I were playing, talking, reading books, etc. I looked up to see him ripping a cover of a musical score. I think lots of kids rip pages out of books, experimenting with being destructive. For the first time, though, Jedd was doing that. He wasn’t seeing it as a problem, but I quickly communicated to him that it was a problem and that we don’t treat books that way. I said “No” several times with grave earnestness and pretty intense correction in my voice. It didn’t take much vocal correction for our sweet little guy to pout and almost cry.
I sat him down alone in a chair for a minute or so while I taped the cover, and then we talked about it some more. “How do we treat books? Do we tear them? Noooo. Do we rip them? Noooo. We turn the pages and we read them and we take care of them.” Etc. I think he learned something.
This morning, I’m wondering, though, about the priorities he perceives. We do correct him when he doesn’t do what the other parent says, and we feel strong that he should not learn to defend himself by hitting back, so any hitting impulses get shaped in another direction. Those things seem far more important than how he treated a single book, but I’m not sure how he could sense an appropriate priority based on the shocked, disciplinary tone of my voice last night. In other words, I’m afraid I communicated too much intensity last night, and if that is a pattern, I might end up teaching him that treating books well is more important to me than treating people (his mother, his friends) well.
All this makes me remember once observing a mother correct a little girl rather over-emotionally over carelessness and a food spill. The annoyed, annoying (although on target) retort from another adult was “My goodness, Peggy. What are you going to save for the Holocaust?”
Priorities. Levels of importance.