Parenting is hard. It’s an endeavor that takes lots of practice, patience, and hard work. So I’d like to brag on one of my kids for a second and give an example of when practicing what you preach finally pays off.
Something happened a few days ago that I’m not to proud of: I was in my room changing after a hard day of work, and my oldest daughter, excited that I was home, snuck into my room to jump out at me and scream “hi”. Like I said, I had a very rough day at work, and I was half naked when she jumped out at me. She scared the crap out of me, so I yelled at her…pretty loud, and sent her to her room. Now, she had broken a rule (she snuck into my room when the door was closed), but she didn’t do it maliciously, and my reaction was WAY over the top. So, I swallowed my pride (after I was dressed), went into her room, and held my now-crying girl and apologized.
I’ve met with parents in the past who would have had no problem with my initial reaction. After all, my daughter broke a rule, she deserved the consequences. Indeed, after I finished apologizing to my daughter it gave us a good opportunity to talk about the rules we have in our house, and why we have them. But that does not alter the fact that I over-reacted to what was really a minor breach of the rules. The best thing I could do for her in this situation was to model behavior that we have been encouraging her to do since she was a baby, namely, to apologize when she messes up. It gave me an opportunity to practice what I preach.
So you can imagine how proud I was yesterday morning: The same daughter was having a “got up on the wrong side of the bed” type of morning. As a parent you have probably been there. Those mornings when your child is not doing anything they are supposed to do, and are upset at you when you get them back on track. Things came to a head when I had to take away a coloring book and send her to her room to get changed. To my daughter this seemed like the end of the world, and she screamed how much she hated me and then stomped off to her room. I of course followed her, calmly explained to her that this is not how we speak to our parents, and she shut herself in her room to change. To my surprise she re-emerged just a couple minutes later, half dressed, walked over to me and apologized for yelling at me. She told me it was inappropriate, and that she does not hate me, but really loves me. I was SO excited! This is a process that we have walked her through, and modeled for her many times before, and here she is at almost 6 years old calming herself down, and making the apology on her own! It felt like such a big learning moment for her, and such a victory for my wife and I as parents!
I don’t relay this story to toot my own horn (ok maybe a little) but really I relay it to encourage you that even practicing how to handle mistakes with our kids can pay off. Now, she is still just a kid, and I don’t expect she will get it every time, but as a parent you have to take these moments when your kids take that next step and do what you have been teaching them and hold onto them. Celebrate them with your child to further enforce them. In parenting practice seldom makes perfect, but it does from time to time pay off.
Just my $.02