Our now adult son was maybe 3 or 4 years old when we were visiting my parents down at their home at the shore. Their whole yard and driveway were made up of these bleached-white "potato" rocks, very common down there. Those stones are perfect for little hands to throw. Our son was outside doing what came naturally, tossing stones, and one of the stones went rogue and hit the rear windshield of my late-model Toyota Corolla. Shattered it completely.
Oddly enough, we didn't hear any commotion. But, I didn't see where he was (or even that the rear windshield was AWOL), so we went looking for him. We found him hiding on the other side of the house, crying. He was clearly devastated! He showed us what had happened.
Here's what we did. We comforted him. We told him, "People before things...always...no exceptions!" We told him that windshields can be fixed. If he had been older, we might have offered for him to find a way to help pay for the glass, but only as a way for him to feel better about the whole thing. But, the truth is that the whole thing was an invaluable learning moment for him--and for us!!!!
He learned these things:
• Rocks can shatter glass. Be extra-careful where and how you throw them. He never shattered another windshield or window again.
• Mom and Dad can be trusted to be helpful and loving when things go wrong. He can always tell us when something happens and we will be there for him, without judgment, without blaming, shaming, lecturing, ridiculing, or yelling.
• People make mistakes. That doesn't make them good or bad. That just makes them learners.
• He is safe. And, he is loved.
I healed some things that day, too, and though I cannot speak for him, I suspect my husband did, too.
Sweet people that they were, my parents would never have been able to respond that way, if I had busted the windshield on my parents' car. They'd have gone off the rails, punishing, lecturing, feeling abused and ill-used, etc. I'd have felt bad about what I did, and that would have seeped into feeling badly about who I was. I know this because I have plenty of those experiences from my own childhood. And, treating our son the way I wish I had been treated was VERY healing for me at that moment.
Profoundly, my parents let me know that they healed some things, too, just in watching how we handled the event.
All that learning and healing was well worth the price of the new glass!!!! :-)
P.S. Now...two decades later...my son tells me he still vividly remembers the event, even though he was so young. It made a large impression on him and it built mutual trust that never, ever wavered.