Recognizing a Mistake and Learning From It by Dr. Amy Alamar, author, Parenting for the Genius (Book Excerpt)
With reflection on your decisions, you can make opportunities to learn from your mistakes. By now you should realize that learning from your mistakes is one of the mantras in this book. It’s ok to make that mistake so long as you – come on, you know what I’m going to say – learn from it! Before this, comes recognizing the mistake. It’s your job to call your child out on mistakes and you will earn your child’s respect if you do the same with yourself. We’re human – we’re imperfect. That’s ok – and your child will learn to move forward by watching you have the confidence to do the same.
So your 15-year old daughter’s grades dropped and you decided to punish her with no television, hoping that would motivate her to do better. A few weeks in to the punishment you realize that she’s still over-enjoying down time (sans television) and she does not seem to be studying any differently. You realize you’ve made a mistake and it’s not the punishment she needed, and she still needs help with her time management. You need to fess up. You need to acknowledge that in fact you made a mistake and you are going to change direction. The first thing that will happen is you will work together to devise a schedule. Think clearly about whether a parenting decision had the desired outcome or not and let that inform future decisions.
You’re the Parent!
I don’t recommend the “Because I said so!” route because not only is it futile, it also will sound very cliche and I can almost guarantee you’ll want to gag yourself with a spoon the moment you hear it uttered from your lips. However, you are the parent and you’re allowed to just say so. Hopefully you have a rhyme to your reason, and you likely usually do, but truth be told, not enough parents lay down the law and take the responsibility of parenting. Set limits and enforce them. Be as consistent as you can with enforcing the limits. When your child questions your choice it’s ok to justify it, but it’s also ok to say you’d appreciate cooperation in the moment and you’d be happy to discuss it later. This offers you a chance to consider your decision, but at the same time it allows you to move forward without harping on it.
When you are at the grocery store with your 5-year old daughter and she is pitching a fit about some sort of cereal and you ask her to stop. she needs to stop because you said so, literally. If she doesn’t, you need to take her out of the situation and when she is calm, then you can explain why Chocolate Covered Cookie Crumble Cereal isn’t going to be stocked in your pantry. She will learn that sometimes it is what it is because you said so. And, you said so because of a good reason! It’s a good idea to work on “the look” for these kind of situations… usually once a child understands that when you’re dead serious and you give “the look” they need to shape up and then you can discuss the details when it feels right. You don’t have to practice “the look” in front of a mirror – just let your child drive you to it and it will come.
Building Confidence in Your Choices
I have found myself at too many dinner parties where the conversation goes to television, computer, telephone habits, you name it and the parents on the other side of the conversation begin to judge and justify. “Does your daughter have a telephone yet?” “Isn’t twelve too young for a phone?” “We got our son a phone because he really needs it.” “Well, we watch that show, but only when homework’s done.” We don’t usually watch television, but….” “We don’t allow the kids to use the computer at home.” These are all claims and questions I have heard repeatedly. Why do we feel pressured to justify our decisions we make with our kids to our friends? We talk about movies we’ve seen or parties we’ve been to freely, but when it comes to talking about our kids we feel the need to explain why we let them _________ (play football, read a vampire book, surf the web, have a cell phone, and the list goes on). When you are in these conversations feel good about your parenting. It’s fine (and even a good idea) to open yourself up a little, re-think some of your decisions, and take some tips. Feel free to imitate what seems appealing, but don’t doubt yourself just because you shared something in the conversation that didn’t jive with the other parent’s choices. Think about the content and treat it as you would any judgment, question, or advice you might get in another arena (at work or in a recreation league for example). Additionally all of the justifying and apologizing for your decisions will be heard by your kids and they will see and model the lack of confidence in their own decision making.
Our son and his friend desperately wanted a cell phone. They were in fifth grade, 11-years old, and did not have any need. When asked what they would do with one they replied, “Text, talk to my friends.” We told our son that if he had a need for one we would consider it. This conversation came up multiple times with his friends’ parents. They heard us say this and expressed the same reasoning to their child. A few months after the last conversation about a phone our son got a job escorting younger children to their soccer practice. He walked home from there just at dusk. We decided as a family that we would all feel more comfortable if he had a phone. It was a very simple decision, he paid for the phone and activation fee, and we added him to our service with the understanding he would follow certain rules. The moment his friends’ parents got wind of this they accused us of buckling. My first reaction was defensive – “but he has a job, but he needs it to be safe, but he paid for it….” I should have had more confidence in my own decision making to proudly say, “indeed, he has a phone and his father and I are very proud of him for showing such initiative.” There is a balance between discussing your decisions with friends, and feeling the need to justify decisions that others may not agree with…
Reading this book and others like it will help you to know you are a good parent. You’re doing the best you can and you’re trying to make informed decisions. Feel good about yourself and enjoy the fact that you’re educating yourself and becoming a savvy parent. Remember, no one has ever parented your child before.
Building Confidence in Your Child
I was talking with my mother and son and the conversation went to how much a parent loves a child. It led to one of those moments where we were competing to love each other more (“I love you more than you’ll ever know.” and “Well, I love you more than that and then a little more…”). At one point my son said, “Well, I love me more than anyone else does.” I laughed at first – how egotistical! But then, upon reflection I realized how healthy and wonderful that statement was.
We must learn to love ourselves. How will others begin to appreciate all we have to offer if we don’t see it. Of course everyone needs fans in their corner cheering them on and reminding them of their worth, but we must be our own best advocate. What my son was demonstrating was a pride in himself that I couldn’t give him. I could laugh, or I could celebrate it. First I laughed, but then I went back and celebrated it. I told him that I thought that was as wonderful way to feel about himself (but of course I still loved him more!).
Be aware that you cannot give your child confidence, but you can support it and nurture it. Praise your child’s efforts and ideas. Reflect together on decisions. Share your pride in your child regularly. Mention pride in effort, but also in accomplishments. Don’t focus on accomplishments, but don’t ignore them either.
We took our son to his first meeting with the Cantor at the temple in preparation for his bar mitzvah. She was extremely gracious as we made our way through the small talk and basic introductions. Then she cut to the chase and had him begin reading his blessings for her. He had been in a class and had chosen to take the class twice the previous semester. Well, as he read, it was clear his hard work had paid off as he was familiar with all the blessings and read them with great ease. She was impressed, which in turn made me beam with pride. Later in the day I mentioned, in passing, how proud I was of how he read. He looked surprised and did a double take as he asked, “Really?” In his mind he was expected to do a good job – this experience of becoming a bar mitzvah was a privilege for him (that he chose to do). He knew how hard it was for his father and me to get him to all his classes and extra tutorials and he was working because he loved it and because he had the opportunity. He had no idea that I was proud and it was a terrific moment of glory for both of us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Amy Alamar has worked in the field of education as a teacher, teacher educator, researcher, parent educator, and education reformer for over 15 years. She has conducted significant research in the areas of student stress, parent involvement, learning and instruction, curriculum design and implementation
In 2014, Dr. Alamar’s first book was published. Parenting for the Genius: Developing Confidence in Your Parenting through Reflective Practice (For the Genius Press). The book is a comprehensive guide to becoming a thoughtful and confident parent, with anecdotes and details relating to the guidance and support of children throughout their formative years. Her second book, The Parenting Project: Build Extraordinary Relationships with Your Kids through Daily Conversation (Fair Winds Press), focuses on communication strategies to maintain influence with kids. Dr. Alamar hosted the Parenting from the Trenches on Yellowbrick.me and is a contributor to the Disney parenting website, Babble and the Psychology blog, Hey Sigmund.
Dr. Alamar worked as the Director of Learning and Instruction at Gooru, designing and implementing digital curriculum for K-12 schools. She previously served as the Schools Program Director for Challenge Success at Stanford University.
She is a frequent speaker at parent and faculty groups and was an invited guest of Michelle Obama at the White House for a conversation about kids’ health in 2016.
Dr. Alamar is a married mother of three and a resident of San Francisco, CA,