Friendly-fire syndrome
Friendly fire syndrome
Scott Dunlop
Ever had a conversation like this?

That’s it! Go to your room!

Dad! It wasn’t me!

Enough! If you lie to me, that’s only going to make it worse!

The child will burst into tears, and head for the bedroom. If he’s older, he may even slam the door, that devil-may-care provocation which sends many parents over the edge.

But, before you get a chance to get even angrier, you see something. Half-hidden by the couch. The cat is playing with the missing DVD cover. A DVD cover which isn’t that important, but your child had previously managed to forget to put your favourite Simpsons series away neatly, so this time, it isn’t hard to go from calm to ballistic with one demented twitch of the veins on the side of your head.

Or the time when your birthday biltong went missing, or juice got spilled on your new copy of “How to Be a More Patient Father”, and you blamed the wrong sibling.

Some parents treat these moments the way a general does the victims of friendly fire in a war zone: Tough luck, after all, the bigger picture is more important than a few innocent casualties.

But there’s no real satisfaction in that.  Even if you have caught your child being disobedient nine times, it’s still important to make sure that you are disciplining an actual offence before you accuse him of a tenth infringement.

I’ve found it’s important to slow things down when it comes to making judgements about discipline. Instead of allowing the snowball of anger to grow from Grrr to AAAAAARGH!, first weigh up the facts.

Let’s be fair, if you get it wrong, admit it to them. Saying sorry shouldn’t necessarily include bribes for forgiveness (our reaction when we see a man with a bunch of flowers is that he’s having to fix some mistake, rather than admire his romantic side), but if we’re sincere, and we say sorry without trying to defend our actions, it will help to rebuild that fragile trust.

I know I don’t always get it right- with three kids, there’s often some of the “friendly-fire syndrome”- one child, disciplined for the actions of another- but it’s not hard to fix, with hugs, apologies and a little humility.

Have you ever disciplined your child for something he didn’t do? Tell us about your “Whoops, I was wrong” moment and you could win a R250 voucher.

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