pull-ups, not put-downs

May 12, 2013


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. When I came home from work they were excited to tell me of what they had devised. 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.

The other night, middle boy called youngest boy a “scaredy cat” at soccer training (the rule applies wherever they are). Yep, that’s about as offensive as it gets, mild by todays’ standards. The youngest demanded his three pull-ups. Middle boy was evasive and didn’t want to do it in public.

We were not going home until those three pull-ups were delivered. Sitting in the car, middle boy gave two really great and genuine pull-ups. The pressure was on for the third. Youngest boy started chanting that he wanted his final pull-up. Oldest boy started prompting but provided a backhanded compliment. Not good enough. Now he owed three pull-ups. My youngest was delighted, the pull-ups were flowing freely, and he was getting high on positive feedback. We were all laughing by the end, sparking ideas off each other in good humour, and enjoying the moment.

I’m very happy with this new strategy, especially as the idea came from the kids.

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About hakea

groupworker, parent educator, therapist, mother of three boys.

View all posts by hakea


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2 Comments on “pull-ups, not put-downs”

  1. Hazel M. Wheeler Says:

    Thanks. That was lovely. You have such a good knack for storytelling, too. 🙂 It’s a nice plan to adopt, that 3 to 1


  2. InsideJourneys (@InsideJourneys) Says:

    That is so true. Maybe if we taught that in schools, there’d be no bullying. You must be so proud of your boys!


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