SCENARIO: You 13-year-old daughter forgets her soccer shoes for the 4th time this week. She’s begging you to drive back home and get them, again.
FACT: Other parents will look at you like scum if you refuse to go get it. Your guilt over their gasps behind your back is worth this lesson! (GUILT is one of the hardest parts of being a parent…help her learn her lesson and you learn yours…let go of some of that guilt!)
FACT: If you don’t go get it your daughter is going to be so upset because she can’t play. She may feel embarrassed or sad. She may even cry. (Haven’t you? Was it the end of the world?)
FACT: If you don’t go get it your daughter is going to be angry at you (because being mad at you is easier than admitting to herself that she made a mistake).
FACT: This crisis will end if you refuse to get them...it may continue if you don’t refuse.
FACT: Your daughter is going to be one step closer to not forgetting her shoes next time when you refuse to go get them again!
FACT: You don’t have to say anything except, “I’m so sorry. I am not going to go get them again.”
FACT: If you say, “I tried to tell you!” or “I’m so sick of this!” or “Don’t you ever learn?” and then go home to get them you’re potentially damaging her emotional health AND you’re rescuing her from her own behavior and saving her from the lesson you want her to learn.
POTENTIAL OUTCOME: Her teammates or coach find her another pair of shoes, but she feels so embarrassed that she delayed practice that she starts to remember her shoes.
POTENTIAL OUTCOME: Your daughter stops forgetting her shoes (but may soon begin to forget her socks and need the same lesson).
UNLIKELY OUTCOME: She learns nothing and does it again every day forever.
UNLIKELY OUTCOME: She never forgets anything ever again!
LIKELY OUTCOME: Your daughter stops forgetting her shoes and socks.
LIKELY OUTCOME: You taught your daughter a lesson without damaging her with your words.
LIKELY OUTCOME: You begin to realize you do not need to lecture to help her learn a lesson; she is capable of learning a lesson all on her own. She will learn to adjust to your behavior instead of you adjusting to hers.
Mary Bowles, PsyD, abd, LMFT