Not long ago we were talking about parenting kids who tend toward negative thinking. Combatting my son's pessimism is one of my most persistent parenting challenges, and I recently had an unexpected opportunity to model a different way of thinking.
Our car was broken into and essentially cleaned out. This isn't the first time — we've lost three GPS units over the years — but this time it was obvious someone had spent a fair amount of time in our van. I discovered this as the kids and I were rushing out the door on our way to a Sunday morning activity.
What did I do? Did I hug the children and give a rousing speech about how it's just stuff and at we have each other and that's what's important? Did I immediately call the police to file a report? No. I dropped on my knees and cried.
I cried because I was the one who had left the car unlocked (again), and because it wasn't fair and because it sucks to get your car broken into. Not the most mature reaction. But, like so many of my other parenting "mistakes," it may have taught my kids more than a perfectly measured, reasonable response.
- My kids got the chance to rise to the occasion.
- They got to comfort me.
- They got to be the ones in control.
- They got to pat my shoulder while brainstorming possible solutions (Webcams! Up and down the entire street!).
- They also got to see that it's normal to have a little meltdown once in a while.
Once I calmed down, we hugged and gave a little moment of thanks that we had cleared the car of major valuables a couple days before. We also noticed that the car looked pretty damn clean (note silly optimistic spin here).
This led to a conversation about how we can prevent a break-in from happening again. I happen to have a terrible memory. I forget to lock the car all the time. But if there are three brains on the problem instead of one, the chances of the car getting locked go way up. We could post a little sign in the car and inside the front door that reminds us to lock to car. Another chance to model positive thinking (What can we learn? How can we help each other? rather than I'm an idiot for leaving the car unlocked! That burglar's a jerk!).
We've had great conversations after other mishaps as well. My first speeding ticket (taking responsibility when you do something wrong), losing my keys (we're all still learning to put our stuff away!), and various cooking flops (things don't always go smoothly the first time).
The lesson for me is that modeling isn't just about the good stuff you demonstrate for your kids. It's also about your reponse to the bad stuff. Breathe easier knowing that your humanity — not your perfection — is one of your most powerful parenting tools.
I'd love to hear your stories (at the very least they'll make me feel better about my car!). Can you recall a mishap that had a surprisingly positive lesson to teach you or your kids?