Friday, May 20, 2011

Fixing Kids Mistakes Part 2 - Sometimes, You Have To Help

I got some great replies to my post from the other day about fixing our kids mistakes. Thanks for that!

Just this morning I had a situation come up where I had to decide...to fix or not to fix.  Today, I chose to fix the mistake. I thought it would be good  to talk about the times when it's ok to fix a mistake our kids make and how to do it the right way.

I'm pretty good at talking about mistakes. I make lots of them. :)

So Chandler (who is 10) called me this morning. He forgot his band instrument. He asked if I could bring it to him. So I was left with the question...do I fix it? 

How do we decide when it's ok to step in?  Here is how I do it:

First - Am I taking care of myself as a priority?  I don't want that to sound like a selfish statement. I'm all about being generous towards others and teach my kids to do so as well. But I also think it's very healthy to teach our kids that sometimes we have to take care of ourselves before jumping in to help others.

 I really don't want to raise kids who think my sole purpose in life is to run around and fill their every need and desire in life. Rushing in every single time they mess up will teach them this. I will always be willing to drop everything instantly for my kids if they really need me to. But I will also balance that by teaching them (by modeling it!) that they can not and will not always have me at their beck and call.

If I have plans with a friend for lunch, I will not cancel or show up late just to bring my son his instrument because he was irresponsible in remembering it. It wouldn't be fair to me or my friend. It wouldn't be fair to my child either in the long run. I would show him that my personal life, my time, it matters and he should respect that as well.

Second - How important is the request? Today the request was of semi-importance.  They are preparing for a concert. He has worked hard all week practicing the songs and was eager to show his teacher his progress today and try to get a solo. Which made me wonder why the heck he forgot it since he's been gearing up for it all week! Anyway, if it was something small, I probably would have said no. But today, I had nothing going on and this was important to him, so I did it.


Third - How often does this mistake happen? If this were happening every week...concert coming up or not...I would have said no. Chandler is a very responsible boy and it is rare that he forgets things. He has only forgotten his instrument one time before this whole school year (and for the record, I did not bring it to him that time!) and because I knew this was a big day for him, I was very surprised that he forgot it. This morning was a bit rushed and because of baseball going late last night, we did not do our usual prep for school the next day. I knew this was a simple oversight, not a regularly occurring case of irresponsibility.

Lastly - Nothing come without a cost! The bottom line to fixing mistakes is that it can't be for free! I would be teaching him nothing if I just brought him the instrument and never said another word. Take the time to use every mistake as a learning opportunity!

I gave Chandler the choice, yes, I will bring you the instrument, but gas is very high right now and I have to come all the way back to the school, so I'll need you to pay for the gas. Do you still want me to bring it?  He thought about it and I knew he was weighing how worth it this was to him. He decided, yes, he would pay for the gas, he really didn't want to miss band practice today. (I was SO glad he said yes! Great lesson learned today!)

Get creative with your consequences and remember to make sure that they realistically and practically relate directly to the mistake. Grounding Chandler from tv for the day would teach him nothing about responsibility.  That would be a punishment. I am not into punishing my kids. (Well, sometimes I want to but that doesn't mean I should :) )

Other options could be, I took a half hour from my day to do this for you so now I need you to make up that half hour by doing something for me...extra chores work but I've also been known to request a foot rub.

Another option would be since I missed my half hour workout at the gym today I will be going for a walk and I'll need you to stay here and do the dishes. 

See how they are all related to the fact that I took time out of my day (teaching importance of respecting other people's time) to help him?

So there you have it. The other side of the coin. Yes, sometimes we do step in and fix our kids mistakes. It can be an equally wonderful teaching moment! Just remember the word...SOMETIMES! :)

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