Another memorable school year has come to a close. I’m still pinching myself when I see how much my children have grown this year, not only in inches but in character. Thanks to some amazing teachers who have really gotten to know and value who they are, they have excelled. Anna and Brody seem really comfortable in their own skin. They have lots of close friends. And, their grades couldn’t be better. I celebrate these milestones.
But when I reflect back on the most success that they’ve had, I really think it’s their maturity and sense of responsibility that’s made me most proud this year. I’m not saying there’s not more room for growing :), but I have most impressed as a mother by their acknowlegement of mistakes and gratitude for rewards.
Take, for example, Anna asking to bake another cake and promising to clean the kitchen. Six months ago that meant she threw all the stuff in the sink, ran some water, and left the batter and piles of measuring cups and bowls to soak. But most recently, the poor thing had a huge baking fail. Nothing worked, not even the cake mix. She spent an hour of time and resources working on this half-baked, tie dye cake only to spend even more even more time cleaning up the disaster of a mess. She wanted to do her old throw-in-the-sink-trick. But, I reminded her that wasn’t going to work. So, she proceeded to quietly cry while she unloaded, loaded, and cleaned the entire kitchen. She said she was “so disappointed”. There was no talking back or arguing. She did it and then moved on. (Success!!)
Then there’s Brody who thinks he’s never wrong; it’s always someone’s else’s fault! And being a 10, almost 11-year-old boy, he gets frustrated when he has to do something he doesn’t want to do too. But, I hold my kids to high but reasonable standards and will not accept disrespectful back-talk. Like in life, there are consequences for poor choices. But, he’s a good kid who is human.
So, when he most recently said something completely rude to Bo at dinner about “getting his soccer goal done already” when Bo had spent hours researching and building the thing, Bo was furious. Luckily, he contained his anger but told Brody how mad that made him when he was doing something nice for him. Instantly, Brody knew he shouldn’t have said it and looked ashamed.
He was sent upstairs to start the bedtime routine. When I went into his room to check on him, he was crying. He said that he “regretted saying that”, and I know he did. I told him that we all say things we don’t mean. Then, I simply said he needed to fix this and left. I didn’t tell him what to say or do next. I didn’t continue lecturing. He needed to feel bad and sort through things on his own.
After a few minutes, I overheard him go to Bo in our bedroom. He burst into tears and said he was sorry, and that he didn’t mean it. (Success.)
I really do not believe in making kids apologize if they are not sincerely sorry. But, I also really believe that feeling remorse for mistakes you’ve made and then fixing it is such a valuable life skill. It’s one that doesn’t come easily as our egos don’t want to lose. No one likes admitting that we are wrong.
What Anna and Brody are achieving this school year is humility and responsibility. Every time they have come to me within the past 6 months and told me that they are sorry on their own, I have felt proud. And, when they choose to tell me what they know they have done wrong, I know we are moving towards accepting our faults and becoming better people.
This year in my small group counseling sessions, I came up with 3 simple steps to resolve a problem.
Acknowledge– accept and acknowledge what you’ve done is wrong or hurtful. Say is out loud. Admit it!
Apologize– say you’re SORRY like you mean it. “I am sorry.”
Aim to please– then, decide what you can do to make that person happy. Stop making excuses and think about what will make it right! Take action; don’t just feel sorry. Do something to make it better.
These 3 A’s are just something many people don’t do. But if more people did, think about how much more quickly we could move on and grow. It works. When my children have made mistakes or just been ungrateful and then they realized they shouldn’t have acted that way, they have begun to repair. They have been moving away from the me-world and into the we-world.
As a mother, I appreciate this so much! A heartfelt “I’m sorry” can go a long way. Steps to show you care about your actions make others like, trust, and forgive you. Doing something that makes someone else happy builds closer relationships. We are not perfect and I know Brody and Anna will continue to test limits and make mistakes. But, I feel good about where they are heading, towards a healthy balance of personal wants and the needs and consideration of others.
They get an A from me for being super kids!