From Dr. Jane's Notebook
When Kids Make Mistakes
Being a parent (or grandparent) is a very complex matter these days. It is often
difficult to know how to best react when things go wrong. This article is devoted to the
concept of conscious relations with children.
- As a parent, it is terrifying to receive news that your child is in trouble. This
kind of news, which is often communicated by teachers, principals, or other adult
authorities, places the parent is a very precarious position. Although it is tempting to
allie yourself with these authority figures, you should not be tempted to blame your child
before hearing their side of the story. By listening to their version, you
demonstrate respect for your child, which will be returned to you over time. Don't allow
your own fear of authority figures to affect your loyalty to your child.
- Adults usually try to dominate children. Adults write and enforce the rules;
children are expected to follow them. This is no news, but understand that rules are not
the issue here. The issue is how the adult teaches the child to obey the rules. Are
children taught appropriate rules of conduct by adults who behave appropriately, or is
there a double standard whereby children are told, "do as I say, not as I do"?
Are rules explained by adults to children with support and guidance, or with a threat?
- Communicating with children is hard work at first. A child in trouble is like a
wounded animal. They must be approached with great care. If you want children to be honest
with you, you must cultivate an atmosphere in the family where it is safe to tell the
truth. In other words, your child must trust you and be able to count on your support in
hard times. No one is perfect, and everyone hates getting into trouble. As such, be
empathetic of your child's fear of getting into trouble and help them learn through their
experiences, not through surviving your punishments.
- There are times when parents must take a step back to gain an objective view. One
way to gain objectivity is as follows: Upon receiving bad news, give yourself time
to catch your breath. At first, you may experience a state of shock, you may not hear
things accurately, and you may tend to overreact because you feel pressured to do
Instead, if the bad news comes by phone, write down the name and number of the caller,
and ask to call them back in a few minutes. In most cases, no further harm is done by
asking for a few minutes to consider the situation before responding, and much good can
occur. As a parent, you need time to consider the details of situations which affect your
children. The turnaround of the phone call provides the opportunity to involve your child
and/or spouse in the process, to make a list of your questions, and to take a few minutes
to think before responding.
- Remember: Your child needs you to be an advocate for them. When children feel
intimidated by adults, they tend to stop listening and shut down. As a parent, you can
help to build healthier bridges between your child and other adults by serving as a
translator between them. You are also your child's role model for how to communicate
respectfully with other adults.
While it is important to teach your children the rules of society, it is also important
for young adults to be equipped with self-confidence and personal courage. Children are
not bad or inferior people; that they make mistakes does not make them into
criminals. Your job is to help your child grow up strong, self-confident, and emotionally
healthy. As the new school year begins, remember to demonstrate that you have confidence
in your child. When you listen to your child, try to really hear their views. By being an
adult who listens, you can help your child develop the sense of self-worth and
self-confidence they will need to achieve their goals in life.
ęCopyright, 1997, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon,