On my birthday one year, I took one of my daughters – then two (2) years old – to the local “painted ceramics” store. It seemed like a pretty good idea and a fun way to spend time. Paint some pottery, spend an hour, laugh a little. Good quality time.
The hour was a trip down terror lane: my daughter wanting to pick up and touch every ceramic object in the store. She opened doors and drawers, pulled out ceramic dragons and fairies and you name it. And at every moment in the first 30 minutes of our reserved hour, I felt my blood pressure rise and my throat clench.
Then something amazing happened: nothing. My daughter picked up the pottery, looked at it, then put it back. She did it again and again. Still nothing. She was having a great time. My blood pressure decreased and so did my immediate reaction of nabbing that next ceramic out of her hand.
At the end of the experience, all I could think was, “We made it!” But after reading this great Guidepost Parent piece about using glassware with young children, I thought more. Why is it that we as parents hesitate to put breakables in our children’s hands? How can we be more mindful about trusting our children and, really, trusting ourselves to put those breakables out for our children to touch, use, and play with?
I think there’s something to this idea of “the fear of breakables” that isn’t a kid thing – it’s an adult reaction thing. As adults, we have to train ourselves to using breakables with our children and desensitize ourselves to things breaking. Some things that we have to get over:
- The reaction to the sound. When we hear something break, we have an outburst, particularly in homes with hard floors. As a mindful parent, we can learn to first hear, then breathe, then think about how to react, “Did something break? Let me see if I can help you.”
- The risk/danger of cuts from glass and ceramic. Our natural reaction as parents is to protect our children from dangerous things, and shards of glass or ceramic are right up there. When things break, our first instinct might be, “Don’t touch it!” or “You’ll cut yourself!” How about instead, we react by saying, “Let’s look at this broken thing together and see how we can safely clean it up together?”
- Breakables are valuable (or: “You break it, you buy it!”). This is the ceramic store terror I experienced. I was afraid that my $26 ceramic painting bill would be a triple-digit bill because of broken objects. Instead, I learned to observe my child, encourage caution with these objects, and do it gently. At home, when putting breakables within reach of our children, we should take care to be sure that Aunt Edna’s prized candy dish isn’t something that can be reached or broken by young hands. But dishes or cups from the second-hand store are perfect “breakables” that allow kids to experience our trust in them to handle breakables without the risk of an heirloom or high-dollar loss that causes us to lose our cool as parents.
Using breakables and encouraging children to handle pottery, china, and glassware is an essential part of demonstrating trust in them. No child is afraid of handling something until we make them afraid of it through constant chatter or poor reactions to innocent behaviors on the child’s part.
The big issue with breakables isn’t the child. It’s how we respond to the child handling the breakables and our reactions to things when, well, the china gets broken. Putting breakables into your child’s hand demonstrates your trust in them and your reactions and behaviors will help them build confidence to do the things you do with the same objects you (and I) use every day.
See what other parents are saying about children and breakable objects here on Instagram. What do you think, is it important to train ourselves as much as our children?
About the Author
Bill Anderson is a father of 4 who shares his experiences about parenting and life with Guidepost Parent.
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