Yesterday I picked up my daughter from her after-school program and soon found out that she made a mistake. When we got to my in law’s house to pick up her sister she came and said, “Daddy…I forgot my glasses at school.” Sure enough, she told me exactly where they were: on the bench in the playground. The school closed at 6pm and it was 6:05.
My daughter looked me in the eye while she said this and I could tell she was really, really nervous. As we drove home she started to cry a little and I am pretty sure I heard her say that she was stupid for forgetting her glasses. And she got even more anxious when she wanted to tell her mom what happened. I decided to take a different approach.
A crucial moment
I could easily be angry about this. Who knows what will happen to those glasses? It’s a hassle that they were left at school and, if they’re gone, it’ll cost me something like $900 to replace them. That’s aggravating and, in the past, I didn’t really try too hard to hide my frustration. And now she takes a simple mistake very, very personally. That’s my fault.
I pulled my wife aside before she talked to our girl and told her that she made a mistake. I quickly explained that L wants to tell her but that it’s super important she doesn’t show how mad it makes her feel. That conversation happened and my wife did an amazing job of being gracious even though that could be a very expensive mistake.
I talked to L that night and tried to share an important perspective. The worst thing that can happen here is that the glasses are gone. If they are, in fact, gone then we’ll figure it out. “What do we do when we have problems? We figure it out.” She was still really sad but I am trying to help her develop a healthy perspective on making mistakes and facing problems.
Practice what you preach
Kids really absorb a lot more than we might think at first. We got to this point because I am my own worst critic and I am not kind to myself when I make mistakes. No one is harder on me than me. I am never good enough for myself and I have paid a price for that mindset. My girls have seen that in me all their life and so it doesn’t really surprise me when I heard L being so hard on herself.
It’s been a big lesson that L and I are going to learn together. A mistake is just a mistake. We’ll work to figure it out.
And, today, there were a pair of glasses waiting for L on her teacher’s desk. It worked out well in the end.