A Teaching Moment

Scroll down ↓

I was deep into my writing trance when, out in the distance I heard a noise.

It came from the living room, where my daughter and her friends were playing. But, I was in my bubble and there were other responsible grown-ups in the house, so I returned my focus to the words before me.

Thirty minutes later, a call from my wife.

Did you hear that bang?

Yup.

It was the sound of an expensive lamp shattering on the floor after my daughter’s foot caught the edge of the table it sat on while spinning around in a chair.

Oh.

My daughter was upset, I learned. And, though she had to leave for her gymnastics class shortly after, she was concerned about reckoning with me upon her return home.

So I’m told.

How anyone could worry about reckoning with me is another story.

But I was 9 once. I get it.

Imagination always trumps reality.

This would be the perfect time to teach her about responsibility. About the value of things. About the need to respect your stuff and owning your mistakes. About consequences.

But, then I remembered.

Trembling at the thought of coming home to face my sentence.

At her age.

And, I came to believe this moment demanded a gentler lesson.

That stuff matters, but accidents happen.

That owning your outcomes matters, but that love and forgiveness also matter.

More.

S’not even close.

So, two hours later, that picture above.

It’s what she came home to.

P.S. – yes, that is tie-dye duct tape…

Join our Email List for Weekly Updates

And join this amazing community of makers and doers. You know you wanna...

62 responses

62 responses to “A Teaching Moment”

  1. Awww… 🙂 Good job, Dad.

    And kids will be kids. You’re lucky no one was hurt.

    • nora says:

      Not just kids! I’ve tripped over my laptop cord, knocking it to the floor – among other things – even as a (mostly careful) adult. Accidents happen.

      Lucky for me my Powerbook turned out to be pretty sturdy and is still ticking!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths and Rob LaRue, Alisa Bowman. Alisa Bowman said: RT @JonathanFields A Teaching Moment http://bit.ly/gZY2II [blog post] […]

  3. People before things. Always!

    And love. Always love. 🙂

  4. Kim says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. It is the epitome of compassion. You are lucky to have each other.

  5. Tim Chambers says:

    I loved the train of thought, and the conclusion: love and forgiveness trumps justice. Great picture, too. That’s a visual she’ll never forget. Don’t throw that lamp away; keep it as a reminder for you and your wife, and then give it to your daughter when she marries. 🙂

  6. We ALL can learn from this, Jonathan! What a great photo – I just wish I got to see the hug, too!

  7. Hey Jonathan:

    Important lessons wrapped up in a small accident. I remember a similar story from my childhood with a different outcome – no drama but no real lesson either.

    To great Dads everywhere!

    Natalie

  8. BZTAT says:

    Her trepidation about reckoning with you shows she has already learned the lessons of responsibility. Integrating the lesson with forethought and action takes time and life experience. What a beautiful way to give her that experience,

  9. Jen Gresham says:

    Great lesson…for all of us. Compassion and gentleness never get old. 🙂

  10. BZTAT is right. If she had not learned about responsibility already, she would not have been concerned about the “reckoning”.

    One of my daughters, 8, is very responsible. I would say too responsible. I am currently working on trying to get her to let go of things. To shake off accidents. To not worry so much.

    Yes, I still talk to her about responsibility but I need to be careful to pick and choose when and what. “Teachable Moments” really only add value if there is something new to learn. Over reinforcement of lessons learned can have a negative impact. A childs mental conversation (if we could listen in) could go something like “I know that, what did I do wrong, what didn’t I say right, why are they telling me this again, I’m a bad child, I did wrong…”

  11. Jesse says:

    She picked wonderful parents.

  12. Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan! Great lesson!

  13. So much beauty, grace and love within this post … so real and safe, too. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful gift today … and for the parenting shift … through the eyes of your daughter, I imagine these types of things will go far with her in her relationships … loved it!

  14. Enrico says:

    Jonathan, do you think that you would come up with the same illuminating and peaceful solution if you didn’t go on writing and go to check the crash instead? I usually find more difficult to control my “primitive educational instinct” when something wrong is happening under my eyes, while if I have the time to elaborate the fact (some minutes is often enough) it’s a lot easier for me to be wise and positive. I guess it’s quite common.

  15. Steve Harper says:

    Jonathan,

    Your approach to handling this situation will create a Ripple that will forever live in her heart and mind. Well done Dad!

    Ripple On!!!

  16. Deb says:

    Some of the most beautiful moments of being a parent are in being able to show and teach compassion and love! My responsible teen daughter knows that she can come to me with ANYTHING and I will choose to be gentle with her over the frustration/inconvenience of the broken or spilled stuff. That trust means everything to me.
    You’re a great Dad! Way to go….love the picture!

  17. patrick says:

    I spent three days creating six plexiglass flowers.

    My daughter came in to the room, set her homework down and sent them flying. She was devastated. I calmly picked them up and told her it was OK.

    I had destroyed just as many in creating them.
    It wasn’t any sort of malicious act on her part.
    Reacting any differently would have done more harm than good.
    And more was learned by both of us, in that moment, than could ever be taught.

  18. I have and 8yo daughter, and when something like this happens, I do my best to commend her courage and honesty if she confesses.

    I want her to feel secure in telling me the truth when things don’t go well. Today, it might be a lamp, but tomorrow…who knows, it could be real trouble she meets. I want her to know I love her misteps, mistakes and mess ups as much as her successes, and that I am there for both.

    By the sounds of it, your daughter will definitely know the same!

    And as for the lamp? There is nothing that adds depth, personality and soul to a home like a small piece with a big, meaningful story. I agree with Tim Chambers! Keep it and your family will be reminded of it’s powerful lesson on a daily basis.

  19. Jonathan, you taught her much in that experience.
    Things we can replace. Relationships with the ones we love are so much more fragile and can’t ever fully be repaired once broken.

  20. Judy Martin says:

    Precious. They’re so delicate at that age. May she do the same some day….

  21. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, your “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Father” is a sweet lullaby, with a mindful message woven in.

  22. Helena Frei says:

    That lamp will probably be the one piece of family “furniture” she most wants to take with her when she leaves for college!

  23. Michelle M. says:

    Nice outcome. Nice lesson for your daughter. However, there is one teachable moment for you Jonathan that is missing here. You missed the opportunity to PREVENT the worry your daughter felt and carried to her gymnastic class because you ignored investigating whether or not your participation was needed when you heard the crash. It was. The crash noice beckoned you, you ignored it, and you missed that opportunity to sooth or prevent your daughter living with those worry feelings. Being present with your children is a gift to you and to them, that is far more important than work. You could have done the creative repair together.

  24. I can’t believe that no-one has asked this question yet: Where do you get tie-dye duct tape?!!

    9 is the age where imagination trumps reality, especially imagination around interpersonal outcomes.

    Dread sucks. I’m sorry she had to feel it, and what a relief she must have felt to find the lamp so lovingly decorated.

  25. It’s like the Lesson from the last lecture when his niece spills ice cream in his brand new car.

    Things don’t really matter. People do.

    It’s awesome that you are teaching your daughter this.

  26. Hali says:

    Duct tape: is there nothing it can’t fix? It comes in all colours & prints.

    What a sweet moment you’ve created for your daughter, and a great story for your readers. WOW. 🙂 Hali

  27. Renee says:

    Jonathan,

    Your story reminded me of a powerful question I often use with my coaching clients and for myself. That is…”What would love do?” You demonstrated a lovely example of what love does!

    And…your re-assembled, tie-dyed, duct taped version of a lamp is so much more rich with story that lives on.

  28. renee says:

    You’re a good man charlie brown.

  29. JenP says:

    Actually I thought that was the picture of the lamp BEFORE it got broken – until I read the end of the story.
    It looks rather arty – there’s a little town near where I live (in Yorkshire in England) where a lamp like that would fetch a fortune in some of the arty, crafty shops.

  30. Christina says:

    Love, love, love this story – and the lesson – not just for kids, but for grown ups too. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kim says:

      I have to admit, I was feeling a bit apprehensive about your lack of response to the loud crash and the “mommy can deal with it” attitude. I was even wondering, “Wow, can this savvy, insightful guy really be such a chauvinist?” But your choice to press on in pursuit of brilliant writing ultimately created THE best damn story ever. Congratulations! We tell our children all the time to make smart choices and do unto others. It’s so refreshing to see grown ups follow the same rules. Beautiful story. Pure genius.

  31. chieko says:

    Apart from the heart-warming moral lesson of the tale,

    I love this piece of writing, Jonathan, because there’s a subtle sense of self-deprecating humour from the very start of the text, that you were ‘in your bubble’ that you were totally absorbed in your world.

    Of course, kids tend to be totally absorbed in their play, too, that’s why some mishaps happen, much to their chagrin.

    The roundness of both the bubble and the lamp-base, also seems to hint the parallel above.

    My tutor of creative writing course at uni. told us to take great texts apart, in order to see why they’re great. So there it is. I’ve tried, Jonathan.

  32. I love it! Evokes a classic “The Brady Bunch” moment:

    “Mom always said, ‘Don’t play ball in the house!’!”

    Nicely done, Jonathan! Enjoy your weekend.

  33. The Hunters says:

    Thanks for this story that gently teaches- it has prompted me for the present moment and reminded me of kindness in the past. As a mother I agree with Enrico above – I go with the primitive response unless I have some minutes to reflect on a better, more helpful way to deal with the situation.
    I was also transported back by your story to the moments of dread after I had damaged my Dad’s (outdated but much-loved) car when I had just learned to drive in the late 80s. I couldn’t face him personally at that point but I’ll never forget looking out of the window half hour later and seeing him gently hammering out the bodywork until there was no evidence left that I had done anything wrong.
    Dads in particular have a great gift (if they are willing to use it) to hold, mend and remould the shape of our lives. Funny enough, my husband has just posted a personal tale emphasising the same point on his blog.
    Thanks. Helen

  34. Further evidence you are totally awesome.

  35. Benita says:

    When I was growing up my younger brother accidentally shot out the screen in the television out with a BB gun. My parents where so shocked that he never got into trouble. Not long after that I accidentally broke one of my mother’s favorite candle holder (an owl with the candle inside). I got in more trouble over that owl than my brother did over shooting out the t.v. The total injustice (remember I was a kid) of those events really stuck with me for a long time. What I didn’t get until later was how much that owl meant to my mom.

    Your grace will be a lasting memory for her, and the way you demonstrated it is so beautiful and creative. What you give out will come back to you.

    Thanks for sharing!

  36. Marnie says:

    This is so sweet! That you actually took the time to do that so your daughter didn’t feel bad – that’s something we can all learn from.

  37. Wilson says:

    Life, it gives us moments like these to learn from them and teach others about them.

    I love the approach you took, and yes mistakes happen, sometimes to give us wisdom.

  38. trash says:

    Midway through the article, i almost had the urge to skip the rest, scroll down and comment first “NO NO don’t scold her and lecture her about concepts too deep for her age for something which was just an accident. And all 9 year olds(and some 17 year olds like me) are sufficiently accident prone to break things (and sometimes limbs) on a regular basis”….however i decided to go through with reading the article and almost ‘awww-ed’ out loud when i realized what the duct taped lamp actually was(earlier i thought it was a very creative idea to decorate something)… Who knows, next time i break something, i might just do the same to cool down a fuming mother who loves her household artifacts like her own children 🙂

  39. David says:

    An heirloom and awesome accompanying story.
    And of course.. now a penchant to break other things to see how you will react 😉

    lol

    Well played..

    D

  40. Dea says:

    Such a great story Jonathan,
    you chose kindness, and you’re right that teaches so much.
    I was the oldest of 4 and when my dad passed I was 13 and had to take on most of the parenting, my mom wasn’t well.
    I was very strict with my younger sisters, it was what I knew. As an adult I married a man with a teen & pre teen and that same strict authoritarian came out in my interactions with them. My husband worked a lot and the parenting fell on me when they were with us. I am very rigid when it comes to kids, didn’t know that about me.I guess being raised by strict Sunni muslims must have left traces in me, I deal with mistakes and conflict with strictness.
    Lots of brokeness came out of my strict ways, but it will heal eventually. Your kindness and softer approach towards your daughter is a valuable lesson even now. Thank you for sharing yourself with us, Dea.

  41. Dave says:

    Great story, I love your response–especially that you turned the broken lamp into a gift!

    Imagining myself in my son’s shoes can really help when I’m in these kind of situations. I don’t always respond as well as you did here, but I try. It’s hard enough being a child, there’s so much to negotiate, and besides, signing up to be a parent means acknowledging that a lot of your ‘stuff’ is going to get banged up. No getting around that one 🙂

  42. That will be a priceless memory for both of you. It reminds me of my dad trying to teach me how to use the brake, clutch and gas on our riding lawn mower. At a tight spot by the driveway, I couldn’t remember how to make it stop and ran the lawnmower into the side of our family car. My dad just laughed. It lightened the mood and created a warm fuzzy memory. My dad has been in the hospital for the past 3 weeks and these warm fuzzies are getting us through a difficult time. You and your daughter are lucky to have one another! 🙂

  43. Janie Elle says:

    NOW you’ve got my attention; I salute your wise heart.

  44. caitlyn says:

    BRILLIANT!

    All I can think of is the fact that if you weren’t in your best place, in the stream of life feeling the flow, you would NEVER be able to come up with that response. NEVER.

    THIS is why a person’s work must be congruent, en-“trance”ing, sustaining, with room for inspiration. How you do anything is how you do everything.

    An hour of gridlock to the office and back would leave no room for a tie-dye duct-tape lamp.

  45. Helen South says:

    oh damnit Jonathan, you made me cry.

  46. Michelle M. says:

    why did you change / edit the story from this morning?

  47. I want to know where you found the cool tie-dyed duct tape? Seriously though, great story.

  48. Casey says:

    This is a great story. I don’t have children yet, but like to think that when I do, I would respond to this kind of situation in a similar way. Thank you for sharing, and for treating your daughter with love and respect.

  49. How VERY cool!!!! And kudos to you for handling it like that! I remember something similar when my sons were young. My oldest and one of his friends were wrestling in my living room while I was at work – something the KNEW they weren’t supposed to do. They ended up knocking over a table with over $3000 worth of figurines on it. Kyle called me at work to tell me and I know that took a whole heck of a lot of courage and I was impressed with him just owning up to it instead of waiting for me to get home and find it, so I didn’t go too hard on him and thanked him for letting me know. When I got home, he and his friend had walked down to CVS and bought some glue. They glued all the statues together again (as much as possible – you know how porcelain shatters LOL). It was something that touched me quite deeply and I’ve never forgotten it – or the pride I felt in him for taking responsibility for his actions. He was about the same age as your daughter. Kids are so awesome!

  50. Sigsy says:

    Hi Jonathan

    This story is excellent on so many levels.
    And the impact this moment will have on her is priceless; solid gold.
    Because when she, like me, is lying in bed aged 40 and thinking back on those moments that had them most impact on her as a child, she will be thinking about that lamp.
    With all the plasters and duct tape and she will be happy, confident and fulfilled.
    Contrast that with the alternative thought that she could have been having.
    Of fear, inadequacy and regret.

    I love you for empowering the woman your daughter will be.

  51. JB says:

    Hay, Ive got to say if you have kids in the house and don’t want “expensive” things to get broke, lock em up (either the kids or the things).
    Sod’s law says that kids are put on this earth to break everything. Your Treasured Possessions, your Wallet and your Sanity.
    The question you have to ask yourself is what you deem to be more valuable.

  52. Andrew Morgan says:

    Naughty chair, spinning your daughter around like that.

  53. What a heartwarming story! I wish I’d been that smart as a parent; luckily, I get a second chance as a grandpa:)

  54. Matthew Bibby says:

    Jonathon, you are a truly wonderful father.

  55. If more grown-ups remembered what it was like to be a kid, I think we’d do a better job raising out kids to be better grown-ups.

    Looks like you’re doing an excellent job over there. 😉

    Thanks for sharing, and thanks for the reminder.

  56. jonathan! someone just sent me this link via twitter and it is YOU my former yoga teacher! what a sweet lesson and i will be keeping that in mind for my own little lady (she’s 2 but on the verge of breaking everything!)

    i love how small this beautiful world is sometimes. i hope you are well!

    elizabeth antonia

  57. […] the month of March are all focused on education and heroes. Here is one of them, a lovely story by Jonathon Fields on teaching compassion to your […]