Kids mess up all the time. Really!
All. The. Time.
As a fellow parent, I’m sure you know this. As a fellow parent, I am sure you *also* know that parents mess up all the time. It’s just that there’s no one really around who can tell – especially as a single parent. The kids don’t know when I don’t succeed: “Oh yes – trio, this is a smokey-char-grilled roast. It’s supposed to be like this. Let’s dig in!”
It’s doubtful that I am adept at hiding my failures, so if trio can tell I haven’t succeeded at something, it’s usually because they have witnessed my mounting frustration. There is no one around me who can really help when I’m frustrated. Trio try to support or help, and try to talk to me about what’s going wrong. And I try not to snap at them (parenting is SO MUCH easier when things are going well!!). But – it’s only me. I am the only one who can chill myself out and remain the adult.*
As the adult, it’s very easy for me to step in and help when they’re feeling frustrated. I can see solutions to problems -only when I’m not emotionally invested!- and I don’t want their fragile little egos to take a hit and then lose self-esteem.
What happens when I get frustrated?
I try harder.
I try something else.
I leave it for a few days and then revisit the problem.
I research the issue.
I ask for help.
Why are they any different? What message am I sending to trio if I swoop in and try to erase their frustrations? How capable and confident will they feel? Am I actually undermining their self-esteem and egos? Am I inadvertently creating fragile egos?
This isn’t a new concept for me (read more here) but one which needs repeated attempts for me to understand. Frustration is an opportunity – we can feel our edges, see the edges in others, and then possibly push past them into a new territory. As a parent it’s not my role to encourage kiddo back into the known, tucked safely back into the edges. It’s how I can help kiddo meet the unknown with confidence.
Eldest kiddo and I have been working on a project. It’s a small project – replacing the gate latch on the backyard gate to keep pup-po safe. One of the first sunny day of the season had eldest and I out there armed with drills, bits, screws, and a pencil perched cool-ly on our ears. We were ready.
If you look carefully, you can see the little broken drill bits still embedded in the wood.
Small, right? Yet, it is *impossible* for a person with my particular skill set to remove a broken drill bit from the wall. In fact, it turned out it was impossible for me to remove a drill bit that still had it’s shank, once said shank was no longer in the drill.
Oh boy, you wanna talk frustration. This was the epitome of frustrating. Not once, not twice, but THREE times. Argh!
And my sweet tween is standing stoically beside me, trying to figure out how to help, how to make it right, even as the light was fading and it was steadily growing colder, and dinner remained in it’s un-cooked form… Frustration didn’t lead to failure, though. We chatted about what happened (after I had a moment. Ok. And a glass of wine.) and why this might have happened. Turns out, we think it was just too darned cold.
A warmer day this weekend meant another chance to try.
If someone had stepped in and did it for me (seriously. I was so ready for that.) I wouldn’t have learned anything. I would have stayed in my safe enclosure and not pushed into the unknown. And my tween wouldn’t have either.
Same day, another story, and a different result.
I really want an under-the-sink garbage holder in my en-suite. I bought one a long time ago, and buoyed by my gate-latch success, I marched upstairs and measured and drilled and installed it. Twice. And then uninstalled it. And then wanted to throw it down the stairs.
Turns out, all my measuring didn’t factor in the swing angle (I think I just made up that concept). My cabinet is too small/narrow for the container – it juts out further than the cabinet door is wide. Frustration! Oh man.
Sometimes try-try-again doesn’t lead to success. Sometimes it just leads to a series of holes in cheap particle board.
But! We do need to learn this! We need to model this for our kids, and give them opportunities to leave holes in the walls/fences/cabinets. And then give them opportunities to fill those holes.
It also helps to give them opportunities where there is lower risk of frustration. Let them feel instant success sometimes too. These moments help bolster us that success is within reach.
My tween had an easy go of making this delicious banana bread.
It really really IS easy. Let me know if you want the recipe for your kiddo … or maybe a successful task is just what the doctor ordered for you!
*Yay mindfulness and meditation! Seriously. It’s amazing what it does for me. And, of course, the kids by extension.