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Have you ever wondered at the end of a day why things didn’t go as planned? Not only does it happen in our professional lives but in our personal lives as well. Although everyone makes mistakes, I am taking this one step beyond. Here’s a quick story from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures to demonstrate the point.
One day, several house parents and I were going to take the children from St. Joseph Children’s Home off campus for an activity. That morning I needed to cook breakfast. One of my boys I’ll call “Shane” was horse playing with me a bit too much. I needed to work though so I asked him to get an egg for me just to give him something to do and keep us on task. As I bent over to get the pan, Shane decided to tease me a bit by holding the egg over my head. Unfortunately, it cracked and the yolk fell into my hair and all over my nice clothes. The reaction I had was not one of my finer moments.
I remember being so upset mainly because we were in a hurry. I hollered, “Damnit Shane!” He became instantly frightened of me. I don’t remember ever cursing at another child. As a matter of fact, I don’t raise my voice to children often so my reaction was completely out of character. Of course, we made amends but this was the dumbest way I have ever reacted to a child.
Although we, as parents, love our children, are educated, and have common sense, we don’t always react well when things do not go our way. The dumb things we do are numerous but they may include yelling, hitting, ignoring, or frightening (in my case) a child. Here are three reasons we do them.
1. Lack of patience– Sometimes we get into a hurry to stay on schedule. When this happens and our child messes up, it throws us off even more. That’s when our patience is really tested. For example, this could happen in the morning while you are preparing your child for school and he/she is dragging along. Some parents may say or do something they will regret because they are feel a sense of urgency not shared by the child.
The solution, of course, is to place the child to bed earlier so he/she won’t drag along as much or wake the child up a few minutes earlier. In the heat of the moment, keeping your cool even if the child is tardy is better than losing your composure.
2. The pressure of others– Some parents have a hard time accepting a child for who they are. Maybe the extended family or close friends have some overly smart or athletic children. The parent may want to assume their child should be overly smart or athletic as well. They may unreasonably push their child to improve but never be satisfied with the results or the hard work the child gives.
I have met so many people who never felt “good enough” for their parents and that is a shame. Though I don’t believe feeling pressure as a parent is a bad thing, driving a child into the ground in order to achieve a narrow minded definition of success seldom works out. The child eventually feels bitter and parents are stuck wondering why.
3. Parents want their children to grow up too fast-This goes along with number two to an extent. Some of us have an idea of what our children should be doing academically, athletically, or emotionally at any given moment. But, when reality confronts our expectations, some of us don’t react as well as we should.
A good example of this is when I couldn’t understand why my older son (who was 4 at the time) was busy looking in the sky watching airplanes while he was supposed to be paying attention during his soccer games. In my mind, I wanted him to be one of the better soccer players on the team. The reality was that he wasn’t ready. Nothing I could do would change that. Over time though, he did improve. But, I struggled throughout the season because his improvement didn’t revolve around my schedule.
There are a few things parents can do to limit future mistakes. The first is to own up to the ones you have already made with your children. Talking to a spouse or a person you trust can also help keep you accountable. The most important thing though is being honest with the person you see in the mirror.
Another thing you can do is to pay for your mistakes- literally. Set aside a jar and for each time you repeat a mistake (losing your cool for example) place a $20 bill in the jar. The amount shouldn’t be enough to break you but it should be enough to get your attention. Sooner or later, you’ll get the message. Eventually, you can use the cash collected for something useful like the child’s college tuition.
Now that I have told on myself, feel free to leave a comment if you are guilty of doing something dumb as well! It can be serious or funny. I’m certain that I am not alone on this issue. (ha ha)
Best wishes and I’ll write to you again Tuesday!