My seven-year-old daughter came running excitedly into the lounge this morning clutching a fresh piece of toast. This piece of toast had been nestled happily in the toaster whilst I squeezed in three minutes of tidying, briefly weighing up whether to spread it with peanut butter (protein; healthy) or jam (sugar; not so healthy). It was over half an hour since my first coffee, so I was also weighing up whether to enjoy an accompanying cup of tea, or an ever-so-edgy second coffee chaser.
In short, it was my piece of toast and I was looking forward to it. I didnít welcome its delivery in the hands of my daughter, fresh from playing with a family cat prone to indiscriminate licking.
I clenched, and shot out;
ďDonít touch my toast! That was mine, and I donít want your hands all over it!Ē
The broad smile wavered and creased. The toast was dispatched back into the kitchen, where she broke her first sob before careering, hurt and noisy, into her bedroom.
Irritating she had been, crossing a boundary in the form of pinching my food. But, with a sigh, I realised the poorly judged toast delivery had come from a place of wanting to please me.
There are many fine and sometimes humorous similar examples, such as the toddler who gets hold of the washing up liquid and a bowl, then somehow gains access to a tap to make highly concentrated soapy water that ends up as a spectacular spill. His intention, to help you with the washing up, is lost in the ensuing chaos and frustration.
Someone (a seasoned early childhood nurse, thus a reasonably reliable source) once told me that children generally want to please us. Many would give a deep, cynical laugh in response to this statement, and it is certainly impossible to be convinced of its truth during sticky parenting moments. Iím willing, however, to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Tricky incidents such as those described above provoke us into knee-jerk negative reactions which are perfectly understandable (we are human, after all) but sometimes regrettable, and donít fit with the innocent impulse that may have driven our children to try and Ďhelpí.
It is not always possible to take a deep breath and count to ten, but perhaps worth reflecting that Ďnaughtyí behaviour may not have had naughty intentions.