I had a great opportunity to practice what I preach recently.
It’s funny, inevitably something happens with my own kids, and then a client comes in practically the next day with the same issue, or I work with a client through a situation in their own life, and then it happens in mine. It’s like the Universe is testing me or something.
My little one has not been packing up everything he needs for school in the mornings lately. I have a reminder list of his responsibilities on the fridge, and extra items are always left in the same place on the counter. I want to set him up for success, and simultaneously foster a bit of independence. Every kid is different, but given the chance, he will always forget and them somehow try to blame it on me.
Last week he walked by his lunch on the kitchen counter and forgot to pack it in his backpack even though I had reminded him, and it is on his listof morning duties. To be honest, I had a full morning of clients, and I didn’t even notice until his teacher called me at lunchtime to ask why he didn’t have a lunch. I looked into the kitchen and told her that he didn’t have one because he didn’t pack it that morning and it was still on my counter.
She put my son on the phone who tearfully begged me to bring his lunch. He hates what they were serving that day, and refused to eat it. His teacher then got on and made me feel horrible for him being so hungry. Correction…I allowed her to make me feel badly. I ended up taking the lunch to him, and immediately regretted the decision.
First of all, no kid has ever died or gotten sick from missing one lunch. He ate a healthy breakfast and would have a snack after school. He If he was that hungry he could have eaten the pizza whether he liked it or not.
Second of all, I would have told every one of my clients to allow the natural consequence, which is eating what is available or not eating. This is not the first time this has happened, and we have discussed morning responsibilities many times, hence the list on the fridge that is to be checked each morning.
Third, I let someone else’s judgement of me in the moment affect my decision, and I went against my own judgement. Our intuition doesn’t lie.
Fourth, my son learned absolutely nothing about responsibility, and I reinforced his desire for me to come save the day and bail him out whenever he forgets something.
Just because I teach these concepts, I still deal with them in my own life and constantly learn better and do better. I had another chance soon after and I am happy to say that things turned out differently.
My son had to make a project for school, which he worked hard on and did a great job. He put it in the dining room for safe keeping, and I spotted it the day before it was due, knowing full well that it would be forgotten by all of us in there, and I moved it to “the spot” on the kitchen counter.
The morning it was due my son was fixing it up and touching it all morning. It was on the counter ready for him to pick up on his way to the car.
To make a long story short, he forgot his project, and this time I didn’t save the day. Getting out of the car he told me that he had to much in his hands to remember it, and in his mind the blame was mine. He didn’t have anything in his hands by the way.
I emailed his teacher the following message:
“Dylan completed his invention and it is really great! However he left it on the counter this morning. As you can see this is becoming a pattern. Since the invention convention is on Monday, he will bring it then. This is the best natural consequence we have. He will never learn to remember anything if I run to school and save him every time. I hope you understand this as a parenting decision that we feel is best.”
My husband was initially worried that he would get marked off for the project being a day late, and my reaction was “who cares!” Getting marked off in second grade so he can learn valuable life lessons about responsibility is the perfect time. This will not affect him adversely in any way long term at school, and will hopefully go a long way toward becoming more responsible in life.
I will admit that it was hard for me at first not to bring it up to school because disappointing my kids does feel hard, but I realize that my job isn’t to make my kids happy every minute of every day. I do have to create these learning experiences for them so they grow into the kind of productive, responsible adults I know they can be. I eventually have to turn them loose into the wide, wide world. I won’t be in their dorm room at college reminding them to take their paper to class. Yes, he is just shy of 9, but I could make excuse after excuse, year after year as to why he can’t do things on his own. Or I can believe in him and foster his independence. So that’s my plan, and the one I preach.