Today after school, my 5 yr old was emptying her school bag. They usually get homework on a Friday and I wanted to see what it was for this week. She proceeded to pull out a small (sealed) brown envelope with some grown-up writing on it with what I presumed were some reading levels on it. It looked like a teacher’s resource to me and all she could say was “it was in my bag”. For a good 15-20 minutes we went round and round, me explaining (calmly AT FIRST) that it wasn’t good to take things that aren’t ours and that you shouldn’t pick things up without asking and her saying that she didn’t know how it got in there. At some point, I couldn’t contain my irritation and raised my voice.
Eventually… very eventually, I came across her Reading Journal. This is a book where the teachers can comment on the child’s weekly reading tasks and parents can comment on their homework. It’s mainly a communication tool between the teachers and parents. In it, there was a mysterious entry that said something about flashcards. It finally dawned on me, that MAYBE the envelope contained flash cards in it. I asked my daughter and she proceeded to tell me “yes, that’s what Mrs. So-and-So said. We can work on what we don’t know with the flashcards.” Inside I wanted to scream, but I took a deep breath and through gritted teeth said “WHY didn’t you tell me that to begin with?!” She shrugged in her 5 yr old way.
We went downstairs to get a snack and when I served it to her, I leant down, brushed her hair off of her face and apologized for yelling at her. I told her that I had misunderstood and thought she had done something she shouldn’t and was sorry. I had barely got the words out of my mouth when she leant over and give me a big, squeezy hug. (The kind that are not very common when you’re a ‘big girl’ these days.)
It struck me that so often as parents we are afraid to apologize to our children. If I hadn’t chosen to do so in this situation I am sure that it would have been a little wound on her heart. These little wounds build up and lead to resentment and frustration, causing un-necessary pain that ultimately breaks down a loving, open relationship between children and their parents. It is also important for children to see their parents model good behaviour, After all, when they do something wrong, I am sure that 99% of us demand that they apologize. But if they don’t see the adults in their lives doing the same thing, they get mixed messages. It does not make you weak as an adult to admit your mistakes to your children. They need to see that everyone makes mistakes and how to appropriately rectify them.
So, if you have an opportunity in the next few days, remember it’s a great teaching moment to show your child how to handle making a mistake and making amends. I promise you, you’ll feel great and your relationship with your child will become closer through it.