All parents make mistakes, but how fabulous it is when we actually admit them! That’s why I love this article and it’s written by one of my favorite children’s authors, Trudy Ludwig. Her newest book, Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! is just plain wonderful. I highly recommend it! Thank you, Trudy for once again writing a book that gives parents and educators a tool to help our children become better people! Thanks also for reminding us that we all make mistakes!! After admitting them, our next mission is to reflect on what we learned from them and will do differently the next time. What a great lesson to teach our kids!
A Guest Post by Trudy Ludwig
“What!?” you exclaim. “You’ve only made five mistakes?” Oh, believe me, I’ve made far more than five. If we’re truly being honest here, what parent hasn’t? But if I had to narrow it down to a top five list, these would be
Forcing my kids to say sorry when they don’t mean it.
This mistake came to light when, after witnessing my young son saying something hurtful to his big sister, I demanded, “You say you’re sorry right this instant!” He turned to my daughter and said with a smug smile on his face, “S-o-r-r-r-y.” My heart hurt because we three knew his apology was insincere.
In my research to write a children’s book on this very topic, I learned from apology expert and author Dr. Aaron Lazare(https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_three_parts_of_an_effective_apology) that an insincere apology is worse than no apology at all!
We all make mistakes. But forcing children to say sorry when they don’t mean it, or pressuring kids to accept apologies that ring false, does more harm than good. I’ve learned it’s far more important to showyou’re sorry. How? Be specific about the hurt you’ve caused. Notice and acknowledge how that person reacted to your hurtful behavior. Share how you could have handled that situation without being hurtful to others. And, equally important, take steps to make up for the hurt you caused. Showing sincere regret and following through by making amends is what helps in the healing process.
Focusing more on the problem rather than the solution.
Want to know how my mind deals with a problem? Visualize my brain as a gerbil and its exercise wheel as the issue at hand. I spend far too much time spinning around the same mental loop when I really need to simply get off that godforsaken wheel. It doesn’t do me or my children any good when I keep bringing up the problem they’re having if I don’t offer to brainstorm with them some possible solutions. “With” is the operative word here, as my role is to help guide them in the problem solving process, so that they can learn how to become more proactive problem solvers themselves.
Not asking for help when I need it.
I like to think of myself as a person whom my family, friends, and colleagues can consistently count on whenever they need help. The problem is, over the years, I haven’t asked or expected the same from them—even when I’ve really needed it. Why? Perhaps I thought it a sign of weakness or neediness on my part, or that I didn’t want to somehow feel in debt to others. I suspect my reasoning is a combination of the two.
These past few years I’ve experienced a cluster of family loss and grief that has shaken me to the very core, leaving me emotionally fragile and physically drained. During this difficult time in my life I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by my family’s and friends’ generosity and kind spirit in not only holding space for me but also being there to assist as I need it. I’ve also learned that when I ask for support from my children—whether it’s doing extra chores around the home, or helping me in my effort to help others—it makes those difficult times more bearable for us all. Everyone, including our children, needs to learn who they can truly count on when the going gets tough and the importance of asking for help when they really need it.
Talking to my kids more than listening to them.
Telling my kids what to do worked for me when they were little; as they got older…not so much. Instead, I shut them down with my unwarranted advice. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a 5thgrader at one of my school visits that I learned an important lesson. This student told me about an issue she had shared with her mom concerning the hurtful behaviors of the daughter of her mom’s best friend. I asked her, “Were you venting or did you want your mom to help you solve your problem?” She was emphatic in her answer: “I was just venting!”
The student didn’t want her mom to fix the problem; she simply wanted her to listen with empathy and compassion. That was such an “Aha!” moment for me. Now, when my kids talk to me about a particular concern, I don’t immediately jump in and give advice. I wait until they’re done sharing and then ask the very question I asked that 5thgrader. By keeping myself in check to actively listen, I’m letting my children know their feelings and point of view matter to me.
Expecting too much instead of accepting good enough.
When my kids were little, I had the tendency to expect an awful lot from them, perhaps more than what they were developmentally capable of doing. So if they couldn’t do something the way I thought it needed to be done (think elementary school science board displays), I’d lend a hand—all right, maybe two—to do it “better.” Through my perfectionist eyes, I lost sight of what my actions relayed to my kids: their personal best wasn’t good enough for me.
There is a big difference between doing our best and being the best. The fact is there’s a lot of plasticity in the child’s developing brain when it comes to physical, social, and emotional skill building. Our kids will experience failures along the way toward mastering these skills, and that’s a necessary step in their efforts to succeed. As Colin Powell wisely said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” I’m happy to report that now, when I see my children trying their personal best, that’s good enough for me.
About the Writer of this Post
Trudy Ludwig is a nationally renowned speaker and bestselling author of children’s books that help kids connect and engage with their peers in kind, caring ways. Her new book, Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! (Knopf/Penguin Random House) helps young readers to understand the power of listening—not only with their ears, but also their heart. For more information about Trudy and her work, visit www.trudyludwig.com