There's loads of mistakes I've made as a parent but there are a few things that I feel I've handled darn near as perfect as it gets of which I'm pretty proud! One of those things is I've been scrupulous about putting the blame on the deed instead of the child. An action may be a dumb thing to do, have negative consequences, or be bad but I have and continue to stress that they are good, smart, wonderful children who sometimes make mistakes just like everyone else. It's a reminder that we can all use no matter what our age. That guy that really cut you off in traffic earlier today is not a jackass. A jackass could never learn to drive a car at all, forget the mental capacity because they don't even have the physical capacity! Cutting you off may've been a jackass thing to do though. See the difference? Some people say "Ah it's just words, the world needs to be less touchy!" and in some cases I do agree with that. I don't bristle in Pagan indignation when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas and is one example of something I think some people just need to chill out about. But when it comes to the difference between calling a person a name and putting a label on a person's actions I do think it's a very important distinction!
This is on my mind right now particularly because one of our boys is in Big Trouble. We've got four boys so to avoid giving out names I'll just number them in order of age. We have to really stay on top of Son #3 when it comes to his grades for various reasons but the bottom line is he's plenty smart enough he simply doesn't do enough. He puts in what he thinks he needs to and normally does quite well with A/B report cards. In our house we tell them that of course we would be thrilled to see straight As but we're also very happy with As and Bs as long as they've done their best. When a C pops up we raise an eyebrow, ask what the problem is, and after considering the bigger picture may even hand out a punishment such as no electronic entertainment for a bit. Ds and Fs we start to get serious about! No one's perfect and it's easy to see how a child with an A or B could make a mistake or two and have their grade suddenly drop to a C but lower than that tells us that there's more going on than a mistake or two!
Not so long ago Son #3 had a bad grade and hid the report card from us until his teacher forced him to call us from school. A D or F on a report card will definitely get a child grounded in our house but to lie about it on top of that...all I can say is that's one of those times that you tell the child to go to their room for awhile to let you cool off and think because you don't want to rip their little head off! He just brought another report card home with an F on it. We asked what happened and he said he didn't know. That's not an acceptable answer for us and the boys know it so we told him very firmly that we expected him to find out and let us know. The next day I was in our closet hanging up some clothes when Son #3 got home and I asked...
Me: So did you find out what happened in English?
Son #3: Uh yeah, I got a zero on a paper and it counted twice.
Me: What kind of paper was it?
Son #3: Umm...I don't know.
Me with a serious, displeased look: Now you know that we expect you to find out these things, ask if there's any make-up or extra credit you can do, and so on. When you make a mistake you try to make it right somehow, right? Was this a paper that you did in class or as homework?
Son #3: We did it in class. It was one of those things where you read something and then answer a bunch of questions about it.
Me starting to feel suspicious at his fidgeting and strangely reluctant answers (not to mention the problem with his last answer????): How did you get a zero? You mean that you didn't get even ONE answer right?
Son #3 starting to sweat bullets: Uhh oh no I mean I didn't get a ZERO but I got a really low grade!
Me turning to stare at him tapping my foot: Ok I'm getting a funny feeling here. Is there anything you want to tell me before your dad gets home?
He broke down completely and told me the whole story. It turns out he's known for several weeks now what happened. He had a book report to do and "kept forgetting and getting distracted." Uh huh. And when I asked what the distraction was? Video games, of course. As a matter of fact, failing to do a book report then lying to us about it is exactly what happened the last time he brought home a failing grade! So I took a deep, deep breath and with the calmest, softest voice I own told him to grab a quick snack, go to his room to do homework, and not to come out of his room until I called for him. I would tell his dad, quell any knee jerk reaction his dad might have to rip him limb from limb, then call for him when it was safe so we could all talk about the situation.
I can only conclude that this sort of thing is a result of that bit in the brain that doesn't develop until later in life, something in the frontal part, I believe. It's supposed to be why they don't always make logical, well thought out decisions and show a decided lack of good judgement at times. At least that's what I'm telling myself repeatedly!
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12 hours ago