One Dad’s Story

If we are wise we shall mix understanding with our love … and share in the full joy of his happy childhood.
— Maria Montessori, from Maria Montessori Speaks to Parents

Just yesterday my wife and I heard of a powerful father-son interaction from an unlikely source: our dog trainer.


Kevin, the trainer, was discussing how important it is to be calm and consistent with dogs, instead of loud and punitive. He then raised an intriguing analogy, from his experience as a dad with his 4-year-old son.

Here is Kevin’s story:

I had just painted our whole house.

On one of the freshly painted walls, my son decided to draw a picture. With permanent marker.

If you know anything about painting over permanent marker, it is several coats. Now I have to paint the whole wall again. I walk by and I’m like, “Ugh.”

Ok. So I get my tarp, I go get my paintbrush, I get my stuff. And I put it all in front of the wall. Then I say:

“Son, what’s this?”

He says, “It’s a drawing!”

“It’s beautiful. But where is it at?”

With a sad look on his face, “It’s on the wall.”

“Well, we have to fix this,” I said matter-of-factly.

And that’s what we did. We fixed it.

At the end, I’m exhausted. I just painted a wall again. But I know what I have to do now. I’m like, “Ok, let’s get you some paper, let’s get you your paints, and let’s draw that picture. Because the sad part is I don’t have it anymore. Now I want it back. Can you do it again?”

He drew the picture again happily, and we hung that thing on the wall.

And now, instead of a memory of his dad yelling at him, he looks at that picture and thinks, “That is a good picture I drew.”

When Kevin told my wife and me this story he didn’t say it with some kind of arrogance about how amazing he is as a father or anything like that. He said it with love and, just as importantly, with understanding — an understanding about the role of calm and consistency in aiding the healthy development of children (and of dogs too it seems 😀).

As Dr. Maria Montessori said, in full:

If we are wise we shall mix understanding with our love. It is marvelous how courageously this tender, small child asserts the inner principle of his growth against adverse conditions. But he is using valuable energy to do so. If we hinder him [for instance, by yelling at him for drawing on a wall with permanent marker] he fights against us, if we are unwise in our loving [for instance, by not having a natural consequence for painting on a wall with permanent marker] we set ourselves in the opposite camp. But if we are wise, we watch his development with understanding, we gain his confidence, and we share in the full joy of his happy childhood.

Cheers to Kevin for doing just that, and to all the other dads and moms out there doing their best too.

For more on Montessori, watch What is Montessori?