When my kids began attending school I realized that I was unsure as to how I should react when one of them would come home from school or soccer practice and tell me their account of a conflict or situation they had that day. As a parent I felt the need to be my child’s advocate and speak up. But I wasn’t always sure of the best way to go about it. And, sometimes when I wasn’t sure but spoke up anyway, it was because emotions got the best of me.
So how do I navigate things when conflicts arise?
I’ve come up with one very helpful personal rule.
A number of years ago one of my sons came home from school with a gigantic scrape across his face with his eye turning black and blue. He looked as if he had been in a fight. It turns out that he was sledding in gym class and he collided with another student. But my question was: Why didn’t the school call me? Why wasn’t I informed by the teacher? Because an injury like that, in my mind, warranted a phone call home.
I consider myself to be a somewhat laid back parent as a result of having four (going on 5) kids. But sometimes, when my kid is hurt, Mama Bear comes out and reasonable and laid back takes a back seat. I picked up my phone, preparing to call his teacher. And then I paused. I knew I was upset. I knew I was not going to form my words appropriately. All the teacher would hear would be my anger and protectiveness of my child because my kid was hurt and I wanted answers! Instead, I decided to give it 24 hours and call the next day.
In those 24 hours I consulted a few friends whom I trust and respect. I talked to my husband. I slept on it. The next day I called the teacher and was able to calmly talk to him about what happened, how I felt when my child got home and asked why I didn’t get a phone call. As you might imagine, the teacher had his side of the story and it was quite reasonable. However, he admitted he could see my side as well. Yes! Communication and mutual understanding!
I believe I got further in my phone call to the teacher (I received a sincere apology) than I ever would have if I had fired off an angry email or phone call the minute my child came home looking like he did.
While I do believe in standing up for my kids I also believe that if I come out with my first gut reaction and emotions, it will not be my best. And the results may not be what I want. I’ll only feel better temporarily because I gave someone a piece of my mind in the name of standing up for my kid.
Since that day I have begun to personally institute a 24 hour rule: Something happens at school, with a coach, or at a friend’s house; when something does not add up and I sense that my child has been wronged, I pause. I consider, I ponder and occasionally rant/consult with others. Sometimes more information comes to light in those 24 hours that may further merit that phone call. Or, on more than one occasion I realize that skipping that phone call is the best course of action. Sometimes things are really better left unsaid. And, if I decide that a phone call is necessary, after 24 hours I can confidently call knowing that I have a sense of what I want to accomplish in that conversation.
Bottom line, I’m learning a lot about myself and how I parent with this rule. I have told myself on more than one occasion since I’ve started this that I was glad that I gave it a day (or even a weekend) to ponder my response to conflict. I’m learning more and more that part of being a parent is learning how to be an advocate for your child, but also it’s good to be a diplomat.
I know as we bring home our new son there will be ample opportunity for me to practice this skill as I navigate the sometimes inappropriate questions and comments that come with adoption. I’m working on what’s best for the kid, not what’s best for my sense of what’s right.
Mostly, I want my kids to know I always have their back. And hopefully, in the process, I can model for my kids a way to deal with conflict.