Kids mess up. They make mistakes. They do what we ask them not to do and don't do what we ask them to do. I guess that's why we still call them kids and don't send them out on their own when they turn 10.
One thing I try to do both in my classroom and at home is give everybody a fresh start every morning. They may have messed up yesterday, but today is a brand new day. As Anne Shirley of Green Gables called it, "a day with no mistakes in it."
It's hard for a kid to get so buried in consequences that they can't see a light at the end of the tunnel. I imagine it's hard to stay motivated to work toward something if they feel there is no hope in sight. Remember, our job is to help them make better choices. Around here that means that help is readily available.
What does that help look like exactly? Well, how do you like others to help you? Think about how frustrating it is when you can't figure out some new piece of technology or when you open your cell phone bill and see they've overcharged you. What do you do? You call the help line. Think about all the different types of responses you've received on those help lines. Some are friendly and polite. They listen to you as you explain your situation. They ask questions to make sure they understand your needs. They offer suggestions or resolve your issue in a timely manner. It is a very pleasant experience and you get off the phone feeling very satisfied with the customer service you've received. That company has just gained a loyal customer in you.
But it doesn't always go that way, does it? Sometimes the person on the other end of the phone makes it evident that they do not care about your satisfaction. They are short with you and cut you off mid-sentence. They haven't heard what you are trying to say. You can hear them talking and laughing with co-workers and you know that this call truly isn't important to them and you're not sure why you stayed on the line. The recording was clearly lying to you. When you hang up the phone you are completely dissatisfied and will probably think twice before dealing with that company ever again.
Who offered the most help? The one who listened patiently and met your needs or the one who made you feel like a bother? We like help to meet us where we are and that's exactly what we need to do with our kids. It's incredibly frustrating to feel like we are not being heard. Helping our kids make right choices starts with knowing where they are coming from. Just as a good customer service representative listens in order to understand, we need to do the same.
Sometimes our kids make poor choices. Sometimes those choices are a lack of understanding. Maybe we've explained something too quickly. Maybe we've used words they don't know. Maybe this is the first time they've ever been asked to do something and they don't have any idea what you're talking about but are too afraid to ask. Make sure that you are like that first customer service representative. Listen, ask questions and come to understand why your child did what they did. It could have been they just wanted to be defiant. But before you jump on that ship, make sure it wasn't that they needed help but didn't know how to get it.
Remember, God's help line is always available to us. He is all those things we want to be to our kids: kind, patient, understanding, and helpful. Let's learn to be like that.