Friday, January 29, 2010
Teaching Consequences is No Fun
"No!" he snaps. "Did you grow up in a household without consequences?"
His response is in keeping with his character, an intense, silly man, and that's why it is funny. He brings up a good point, however. It's not easy for parents to teach responsibility and consequences. It is a simpler short-term choice to fix a child's problems for him. In the long term, this type of parental behavior can stunt a child's growth. As a parent I'm starting to face situations that require me to watch my kids struggle with a problem on their own, even though my instinct is to fix it myself so they avoid stress. I don't want to be a "Dwight" with my kids, and yet I know that it is necessary for me to step back and let them solve their own problems to a degree, because they need to become durable, successful adults.
Yesterday I made a mistake that caused me some embarrassment. I got caught up with something and forgot to get my son off of the school bus. The neighbors called me, and the bus driver came back around the block one more time as I ran outside. Big Brother looked shocked. After we walked into the house his eyes welled up.
"Mommy, where were you? How could you forget me?"
I had no excuse for myself. I bent down to his level and hugged him.
"I made a mistake. I'm sorry I frightened you. Forgive me?"
His little face turned red. "I was not scared. You did something naughty!" He snapped.
"Hey." I said sternly. "I know you are angry, but I'm your mommy and check how you speak to me. I made a mistake and did not mean to upset you, but you being upset with me is my consequence."
He shook his head in unenthusiastic agreement and then went inside to play. I reminded him to finish his homework. He kept playing and forgot.
This morning Big Brother was in a frenzy trying to finish his packet.
"Mommy, please can you write a note, or can I just stay home today?"
Big Brother's eyes were welling up again and he was wiping them frantically. I felt bad for him, but I said no.
"You have to hand in what you've done and take the consequences for not being finished." I said. "Now eat your breakfast."
Big Brother was not happy. It was hard to watch him upset. I know he was afraid of facing his first grade teacher.
"Listen," I said, handing him his coat. "Just be honest with her like I was with Mr. Bus driver yesterday. Tell her you forgot to finish and ask her if you can somehow make it up. Then comes the hard part of facing whatever she says. In the long run it's good to be honest and manage your time better next week. We all make mistakes sometimes. No one is perfect."
Big Brother shook his head in agreement, stuffed his partially completed homework into his school bag and we walked outside to meet the bus. As I watched his worried little face pass me in the bus window I could feel his stress in the pit of my own stomach. This boy will always be my baby. The curse of motherhood is watching him face consequences, feeling his stresses with him, and letting him handle them himself. In the long run, that is the best thing to do for him.
Here's some more of Dwight from The Office.
Dear Internet Traveler,
Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.