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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When kids mess up, are the parents to blame?

Tonight at swim lessons, Keira said something to a classmate before thinking. She's 11, so sometimes her mouth is moving before her brain has a chance to catch up and stop her. Apparently she said, "You failed! I can't believe you failed!" (or something along those lines) to a classmate who did not move on to the next level of swim classes. (I wasn't there to witness what was said because Nicholas and I were sitting in the lobby doing his homework.) But the mom called her on it. She made a special point of coming into the locker room and finding Keira to tell her of her displeasure.

She then said something that upset me and has really got me thinking. She said, "I thought they were supposed to teach values around here." Whoa! I know she said "around here" meaning the YMCA, but I took that personally. Like I haven't done my job teaching my daughter values.

We went out and Keira spoke to the other mom (I kept my mouth shut). Keira apologized multiple times ~ she genuinely felt bad. She explained that she didn't think before she spoke. The mom said it was okay and that she wasn't mad (while she angrily stuffed towels, etc. into her gym bag. Um, really? She wasn't mad?). She asked Keira to think before she speaks next time (all the while never making eye contact). Her son was apparently crying in the locker room and didn't want to take lessons anymore. Plus his younger sister passed to the next level leaving him behind. Which I'm sure didn't help matters.

So my question is ... should I be held accountable for everything that comes out of my children's mouths? Like when my 6 year old asks me if the guy ahead of us in the check out line is a girl or a boy because he has a long blonde ponytail? Or when my 3 year old tells me that our neighbor's arm is broken when he actually has no arm? Kids say things. Stupid things sometimes. They are kids. I think they deserve a little slack. They are trying to learn about their world. They are naturally curious.

I suppose it is natural to look to the parent(s) when the kid messes up. I'm sure I've done it myself. But ... how can you stop your child from saying something stupid? You can't possibly know that they are going to say it until it has already been said. And then it is too late. The only thing you can do is to talk to them about what they said and why they said it. And then come up with a plan for next time. Like I said to Keira, "Wouldn't it have been better to say 'I'm sorry you didn't pass this time. But you are a great swimmer. I'm sure you'll pass next time.'?"

I will admit that I was upset with Keira. I asked her how she would feel if someone had said that to her. She agreed that it would make her feel bad. She also agreed to try to think before speaking from now on. Although I know she'll mess up again. But that is how we learn.

We've all said or done things that we wish we hadn't. That we wish we could take back. If anyone thinks they haven't, they are just kidding themselves. Seriously.

So we used this incident as a teaching moment, which is really all we can do. And strive to do better next time.

Thankfully we have a God who is merciful and forgiving. Even when we mess up over and over again. He still loves us ... no matter what.

Until next time ... God bless!

1 comment:

LAURA said...

I think you did the right thing. Teachable moments. That's what these kinds of things are. We can teach and teach and teach our kids but still the are going to do things that aren't right. It doesn't mean that we did something wrong... it means that are children are human!!!