Pull-ups, not put-downs

In her 1995 Boyer Lecture titled “A Truly Civil Society”, Dr Eva Cox, an Australian sociologist and social commentator, said that our homes are the most toxic places for our children. She said that it was an indictment on our society that children are safer with kind strangers in early childhood services and schools than they are with family.

One of the ways of creating a safe emotional environment is to make your home a “be kind zone”. In this zone, no-one including the adults call each other names or tease each other. No put-downs are allowed.

This has worked very well at my place with three boys. They rarely call each other names or tease each other, but if it happens they say “that’s a put-down and that’s not allowed”. It has also made them more assertive and resilient outside the home. They don’t accept put-downs or teasing from other people.

My boys were watching the movie “Parental Guidance” during the recent school holidays. They told me that in one scene a little boy said “that’s a put-down, you owe me three put-ups” to which his sibling replied “I like your shirt, I like your shoes, I like your hair”. My boys loved this. They changed “put-ups” to “pull-ups” and made it a rule that the pull-ups had to be genuine, related to the skills and personal attributes of the person. So, my boys use pull-ups like “you are a fast runner, you are good at maths, and you are good at building with lego”.

We all make mistakes in relationships, and sometimes our tempers or frustrations get the better of us and we say things that are less than kind. When there is a rupture in the relationship, it’s important that we focus on repairing the relationship. This is done in many different ways, and for children put-ups or pull-ups is a good way of repairing the relationship and re-establishing an emotionally safe environment.

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Categories: Managing Mistaken Behaviour

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  1. When parents don’t take charge | Hands, Hearts and Minds

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