Never say ‘never’Written by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The first rule of parenting should be “Never say ‘never.’” Never say that you will never drive a mini van, never say that you will never go by “Mrs.,” never say that you will never replace your 3-year-old’s wet underwear with your baby’s diaper cover in the middle of a parking lot and so on. Parenting just doesn’t work that way. Most importantly, however, no matter how wonderful your child and no matter how finely honed your set of parenting skills, never say that your kid would never do such a thing.
Before I employed her as my mother, my mom was a school teacher. Once during her teaching days, she entered her classroom to find that the class guppies had experienced gruesome deaths by stapler. Confounded by the marine murders, my mom was even more baffled to eventually find out that they had been at the hands of two star students. My mom was wise enough to learn right then and there that otherwise good kids sometimes do bad things.
This enlightened philosophy proved valuable years later when my brothers came running home from playing in the small wooded area near our house to fearfully announce that it had caught on fire. Fireworks, a patch of trees and young boys just don’t mix. Still, as easy as it would have been to place most of the blame on their accomplice of a friend, who seemed the more likely candidate to create an unauthorized pyrotechnics display, my mom astutely spread the blame evenly. My brothers were swiftly marched down to the fire station with apologies in tow.
My son is a good boy. In almost two full years of elementary school he never had a conduct violation. What was known as “getting your name on the board” when I was in school (with checkmarks following when necessary) is now a color-coded system of behavior tracking. Every child starts on green each day and can progress, or rather regress, to yellow, then red, etc. I believe there is an “etc.,” but I’ve never had to worry about it considering my good little guy never made it off of green. Until now.
Jack was about to take off with a friend for some after-school playtime when I reached for his backpack. Instant alarm came over his face, which quickly morphed into agonized sobs. Something was obviously very wrong, and that something was cautiously lurking in the depths of his well-guarded backpack. After some debate about how the damaging information was going to come to light, I finally gained access to his folder and saw the symbol of contention: his first yellow stamp.
He couldn’t have just talked out of turn or accidentally tripped someone, of course. No, my son’s first foray into the world of behavioral missteps at school was threatening a fellow classmate. He had accidentally been knocked to the ground and quickly responded with offhand verbal retaliation out of frustration. Of course, frustration or not, it was a serious offense.
As much as a parent would rather not face such a situation, with every slip-up comes opportunity, especially when it is a small child doing the slipping up. The way we help our children to handle their mistakes is likely the way they will eventually handle mistakes on their own. It is an integral part of their growing up.
Fortunately, this time around I only had to march my son right over to the phone instead of to a fire station. His willingness to make the call was a ray of light in an otherwise disappointing situation, as he seemed determined to quickly and completely right his wrong. Watching my child work to correct his slip up surprisingly also gave me an opportunity to see the good that has come of the work I have put into him up to this point.
In helping my children to promptly correct their transgressions, I am hoping to keep them firmly on the good side of the line for a lifetime. I am striving to teach my children how to live their lives as owner uppers – individuals who accept responsibility for their mistakes by owning up to their bad moments with regret and sincere apology. Perhaps the most imperative step in this pursuit is first preparing myself to own up to their bad moments by never saying that my kid would never do such a thing.
Shannon and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Tags: Family Practice