Damage Control 101: Step One - Break Something

Calling all you seasoned professionals...

Ok, *hypothetically speaking* if you as a parent made a small error in judgement and it had a negative effect on your children, how much of responsibility do you take upon yourself? For instance, lets say you allow them to stay up past their bedtime or eat a whole candy bar. Everyone involved knows that there are going to be reprocussions, but you let it happen anyway. Maybe it's because the only way some kids learn that they shouldn't drink a two liter of soda in 20 minutes is to do it (hopefully only once.) Whatever. The reason doesn't matter, the damage is done and now poor behavior ensues. Now, to a certain point, as a rational adult you know that it's your fault. You allowed the initial conditions to exist and to catalyze into a problematic situation, but I'm having a hard time exclusively blaming myself. My son wants to be treated like he's 13 instead of a 10 year old. In my mind, that means there should be less of the, "I'm sorry Habtamu, I really shouldn't have let you watch 2 hours of TV. That was my bad choice. I know it's my fault you're cranky now so you go slam some doors until you feel better," and more of the, "Well, what did you think was going to happen? Did you think you were going to feel *better* after watching that much TV? Now get outside and ride your bike or something. Oh, and if you stomp out of the house you can kiss your precious TV goodbye for the rest of the week."

So when do you admit that you really should have nipped the problem in the bud versus letting a child learn the consequences of a given situation? Is a sign of weakness to share the responsibility or does it take the edge off the consequences? Should I go into referee mode and just make the call? Does it complicate the situation too much when there isn't a single point of blame? I don't know. What I do know is that admitting some fault does diffuse the rebuttal and defensiveness.

Now I'm not talking about enticing my child to fail here. Obviously I wouldn't leave a handgun laying on the table then act surprised when there was an incident. Unless you equate a pile of Oreos with a semi-automatic, which on some days is a totally appropriate comparison.

I want the kids to understand that not everything that goes wrong is solely their fault, and yet I want to teach them personal responsibility.

where do you draw the line?


Kimberly Kulp said...

This is a hard one. I have NOT parented this age but am a high school teacher and have seen both sides of this equation, children who are allowed to do whatever they want (usually they are failing my class and end up in jail ;0) and those who cannot do ANYHING on their own because they have never made their own decisions.
My suggestion is to allow them a little independence in those areas that they show self-control. Food and television might not be the best places for this. Explain what is going to happen then allow them to choose. For example (this is very dummed down but it's the age I'm parenting), with our four year old we tell him "if you swing your binoculars around like that you're going to break them." He then swings them faster, hits the wall, and they break. Then we can have the consequences of your actions discussion and roleplay how to make better choices.
The biggest problem I see with this is when parents assume their children know how to make good decisions simply because they know the consequences. There's a fundamental difference between knowing the consequences in your head and knowing how to choose right in your heart. Does this make sense?
Hope this helps but I suspect you already know much of this anyway!

The Raymers. said...

I do admit I'm wrong to the kids if I make a mistake. For example, I start fussing at one boy for the mess left in the bathroom only to find out another child left the mess, I will then apologize for jumping to conclusions. However, in this situation,his choices (regardless of his tiredness, etc.) are still his choices. In my house,he would still be given consequences for his behavior (which may be that he doesn't get to stay up, have soda, etc.) If you apologize you are,in a way, telling him it's OK to act that way if you are tired or sugared up- that his behavior is your fault and not his choice. I hope I don't sound like I'm rambling and I hope I'm being helpful. By the way I have a 14, 9, 7, and 6 year old. The youngest 3 are boys so if you ever want to talk, just give me a call. 336-552-4294 (We did talk briefly once when Feromsa called to talk to H.)

Dottie Raymer

lorismusings said...

This is a little bit off topic!Have you ever heard of the book, "The Connected Child" by Dr. Karyn Purvis? I have been reading it and I think it is loaded with helpful advice for discipline, relationships, etc., and with a focus on adopted children.

You can also watch some videos of her speaking on different topics here: http://www.irvingbible.org/index.php?id=1581

You have to scroll down the page to get to the videos.

I have found her insights and ideas to be very helpful in dealing with my adopted kids. It may or may not be applicable to your situation. You can check it out for yourself.