So far in my favorite positive parenting techniques series I've covered Being Kind and Firm and the Importance of Routine. This week our focus will be on Welcoming Mistakes.
We all make mistakes. All of our children make mistakes. Every human that has ever walked the earth has made mistakes. (Anyone see Birdman?)
Take a minute to think about the last mistake (big or small) that you made. Did you forget a birthday party? Yell at your child when you were really angry at your partner? Forget to do something at work?
Sometimes we know right away when we've made a mistake other times we have someone close to us let us know that we did something wrong in their eyes.
Humans (big and small) NEED the opportunity to make mistakes so that we are able to learn about consequences and get clear about what we really value. Mistakes are not proof that we (or our children) are flawed in some way.
I would like you to consider the possibility that a mistake is an opportunity for personal growth and expanding into someone with more wisdom and new viewpoints. When we forget a birthday and feel really bad about it we make greater effort not to have that experience again (trust me on this one). When we do poorly on a test we learn that either we needed to study a bit more or get some additional help. When we hurt someone else's feelings, we have the opportunity to make amends and do something different the next time.
This week I'm asking you to welcome, to embrace, and to be grateful for the moment when your child makes a mistake. They have given you an amazing gift as a parent, because now you have an opportunity to teach them something.
Isn't that really what our role as a parent is?
To teach our children right from wrong (think the golden rule) and guide them to be courageous about experiencing life? We don't want them to give up their beliefs to be people pleasers. We don't want them to follow the crowd, especially if the crowd is making trouble. We WANT them to figure out how to be themselves and to feel confident and happy about who they are.
It's not a mistake when our children try something new and it doesn't work out.
It's not a mistake if our kids have an opinion different from ours.
It's not a mistake when our child makes a choice that is in alignment with who they are but we don't agree.
This is REALLY tough stuff. I know. It is painful for us (especially if you have your emotional center open) to watch our kids struggle. It hurts us probably more then it hurts them. It hurts when our children begin to make choices that aren't ones that we would make but that maybe are really important for them in their life journey.
Your challenge: Let your child make a mistake. Notice your feelings about mistakes and resist the urge to fix it for them. Before addressing it consider where the teachable moment is. Can they think of how they can fix it on their own or is there some natural consequence that would be an even better teacher?
Take the example of the middle schooler who forgets their homework at school every day so you are either forced to write a note on their behalf, spend an hour driving to friends houses to make a copy of what was left behind, return to the school or go in very early in the morning. Remember that the entire concept behind positive parenting is that there is mutual respect. We respect our children, but they also respect us and our needs. Is it respectful of your time to have to wake up an hour early and take your child to school?
What have we just taught our child when we take on this behavior? We have taught them that they really don't need to be responsible because mom/dad will always swoop in and fix the problem. Now if our child has that belief what will happen when they get caught drinking on their college campus? If they believe their parents will fix mistakes for them they never get the opportunity to learn about being accountable for their actions.
In the homework situation we have 2 potential responses that are based on the core problem:
1. Your child has a problem with organization and they are going to need some in-school support to help them keep track of their school work. You can let the teacher know the situation and role play with your child how to be their own advocate and ask for what they need. Make sure to monitor the situation but never from a place of judgment or anger.
2. They forget because they are busy hanging with friends and don't view school as a priority. Once you decide that you are sick of driving around tell them that the next time they forget their homework they will have to explain to their teacher what happened and figure out how to make up the grade on their own. Explain that you have faith in their abilities and know they have the skills to figure out the solution. Then stick to your word.
In either scenario please have a conversation with your child and let them know that you don't think they are bad for making mistakes. Explain that since they left their homework they have an opportunity to learn something new, all the while making sure that you are being kind but firm and taking the opportunity to discuss appropriate study habits (aka routines) to help make your child's school life easier.
Did you think parenting was gonna be this tough!?
Stay tuned for next time when we will talk about YOU, the importance of self-care and why it's essential to your role as a parent.
Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW is passionate about supporting moms to be resilient. As a mother of three daughters under 8 and a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety Jennifer knows exactly how challenging motherhood can be. She also knows that there is hope for all of us and with accurate information, support and inspiration that mothers and families can thrive.
Jennifer’s years of clinical experience as a social worker and her own personal journey gives her the unique ability to guide other moms on their path to health and wellness. You can also learn more about Jennifer, the services she offers and purchase her books on maternal self-care at www.themindfulfamily.com/jennifer.