We must be willing to accept mistakes from our children. They need to try things, and they are going to fail sometimes. They will spill, they will break, they will stumble, they will forget. If we expect them to always get it right, to never make a mess or an error, than we are asking more of them than we ourselves are capable of.
As parents we try to teach our children how to be safe. We also pass on intelligence and guidance. “It is not safe to jump down the stairs.” “You need to carry the cup with both hands.” “You need to listen to your body so you know when to go to the bathroom.” We say these things and they still fall, drop, forget. They will mess up. They are kids. Yet it is so hard for us to remember that at times. We wonder why our child is misbehaving in spite of what we think they should know by now. Frustration builds, and it seems we are speaking to them in vain.
As a Mom, I am working on practicing mindfulness in the face of Simon’s errors. Sometimes he needs a consequence for his actions, but sometimes he just needs to know that I will love him no matter what. A hug and a conversation about what happened and why, can be miles more effective than being sent to his room. If I am always scolding, always impatient, and always punitive, I will actually hinder his ability to learn and mature. He will feel punished all the time, and it will begin to lose meaning. I will feel discouraged and tired, and lose my temper. No one benefits.
This afternoon, I asked Simon to feed the cats. This is one of the chores he helps with. I reminded him that the bag was full, and not to let it tip over and spill. Well, no sooner had I said that, than he did let it tip over, and cat food rolled out, all over the kitchen floor. I could have raised my voice and spoken to him with exasperation. I could have just taken over for him, scooted him out of the way, and allowed myself to become upset. Instead I stood the bag upright, allowed him to finish, and then plugged in the vacuum cleaner and handed him the hose. I didn’t say “I told you” like I wanted to. Instead, I gave him the opportunity to fix his mistake.
The next time your child asks a question that you have already answered for the third time that day, or spills their milk on the floor because they were not being careful, try to breathe and remember that we adults do these things too. Boundaries are important, but so is patience and forgiveness in the face of being human. Children have had less practice at life than we have, and need to keep testing their world to see what works. Some days they will “fail” over and over and over again. But that is ok, even though it might not feel like it. They are learning, and we can help them.
Our children look to us for leadership. What kind of leaders do we want to be?