Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teachable moments

Shockingly, my child is no saint. She has her faults (mostly inherited by me). For the most part, she gets along with people (brother excluded). Last year she was the victim of extreme bullying. She didn't even want to tell on the kids because "she doesn't want to get kids into trouble. And if i get them in trouble, then they won't want to be my friends." While I was very pleased with how proactive the teacher was in her handling of the matter, I was shocked and dismayed that I never heard from any of the parents of the bullies. I never got a call or email. Sara never received a letter of apology. I emphatically declared that if my child ever did or said anything to hurt another child that she would be punished and have to write an apology letter. Got one of the teachable moments, put-your-money where-your-mouth-is incidents today. Sara hurt another girl's feelings today quite intentionally. We were notified and dealt with it swiftly. Since Quitmo is at full occupancy, we chose a house arrest. When she came in the door, she saw the look on her warden's face (mine) and knew the hammer was coming down. First she tried defending and justifying her actions. For a change, I was in the parenting zone. Before she got home from school, I had time to reflect on ways to handle this. I asked her to trade places with the other girl. What if the other girl had said those things to her? How would she feel? Wouldn't she appreciate an apology letter? She agreed sheepishly. Would she have said those things to her best friend? I think putting things into perspective helped her understand what she had done.

When she sat down to write her letter, I had a sneaky feeling she would tried to 'explain' or 'justify' herself in it. I told her to tell me what she planned to write. I was right. I explained that an apology letter is not the place to defend yourself. You apologize, promise to treat her with respect and be done. Then I did what I always do when I am stumped. I called my sister-in-law/guru. She had a brilliant idea. Have Sara write 2 letters. One she gives to the girl and one she keeps for herself to express her feelings. Genius. I thought about taking credit for the idea but who would believe me capable of such brilliant and insightful parenting??

As we speak, the letters are written. Sara is up in her room for the day with no electronics, privileges, dessert or human contact. I really, really hope I don't have to go through this teachable moment again for a very long time.

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