The computer stays locked until the weekend at my house. Locking out kids is a tool parents use in an effort to control children’s video time. But, I’m a Love and Logic person and it’s like stealing a cookie. When you know it’s wrong- you know it’s wrong. It goes against your core. I want my children to mess up-to fail. I want them to feel badly all on their own realizing that they made a poor choice and have to deal with the consequences and look for ways to improve when they get that feeling. It IS possible and it is gratifying and uplifting to see. I’m lucky. My kids mess up a lot. So, do I.
I lock the computer in an effort to control my children even though I preach about letting kids learn and deal with their own consequences. But how do you have consequences when you have no control? I struggle with this dilemma often. They’re called natural consequences and sometimes they don’t come right away. That’s tough for a parent to wait and see, but it’s also a learning experience for everyone and that’s what I’m all about.
I “allowed” my youngest to get on the computer during the week to play some online math games. He loved it and did really well. We discussed prior to and during about the need to “stay on task” and manage his time making sure he was clear about the time to get off the computer. Everything sounds perfect; right? He agreed to it all. Well, when it was time to get off the computer-he did. Closed it out and went onto another activity. No problem. The problem came later when he got mad at me. He knew my button. The computer.
Later when angry, my son declared, “I’m getting back on the computer!” and I went into psycho mode trying to beat him there. He knew I would. I had to stop him. He’s done it many times before. Once he’s on-he won’t get off.
I grabbed at the mouse to no avail. He had already clicked to Minecraft which you can run with the keyboard. I failed. I had to do something. I hit the shut down button on the computer-the one you yell at your children not to touch because it’s so dangerous. It’s so dangerous-blue screen of death. Yes, it happened. The computer wouldn’t restart.
Some time later after we took some time separately and system repair cranked on, we both reflected and realized were both at fault. How was I able to reason about it with an 8 year old? Well, I am a Love and Logic person and I let my children mess up-often. We often reflect together , but this time the reflection was for both of us. I’ve also done my best to teach my kids that life is about messing up and learning -and oh, I believe it.
It’s still hard to not feel like a failure at times though. What is feeling like a failure?
Children need to be allowed to fail-often. Protecting them and managing them at every turn doesn’t build confidence-it builds reliance. As a former classroom teacher, children’s confidence has spiraled downward at an alarming rate. It’s the core of the educational problem.
Children aren’t ALLOWED to think. Sounds crazy? Sure, we all encourage children to think-when we want them to. But, when they really need to make choices, we jump in and save them. Children need to think about their choices and the outcomes, but first they need to be able to make them (even poor ones) on their own. I do my best to shut my mouth and stand back to watch. I still need practice sometimes.
Failure is a bad word and always has been. In today’s society there is no acceptable failure. When no failure is allowed, excuses are a way to lessen the pain. People give reasons when they fail because they don’t want to be seen as a failure or they’re grasping for understandings. Failure brings feelings of guilt and inferiority. Giving reasons is a copying mechanism that is intended to lessen the pain directed toward the person causing the disappointment. No ownership=no pain. But who is causing the pain? Pain needs to come from the inside, not others. You need to be able to fail, accept, reflect, and learn all on your own.
Entrepreneurs, inventors, and creators fail often. Successful creators are not intimidated by failures. It’s a tool. Embracing failure encourages you to reason and use your failure to improve.
When someone fails, offering acceptance and probing for why it happened is a better path to understanding and learning from mistakes. Instead of chastising, using reflection techniques can help to reason where the mistake occurred and direct a plan of action for the future. Reflection encourages us to own up to our mistakes and poor choices, but it adds a crucial element-understanding. Knowledge + Understanding = Learning. Without understanding, there is no learning.
So, next time someone fails and gives “an excuse”- be accepting. Avoiding guilt is why most people offer excuses anyway. Without the guilt-it’s called a learning opportunity. We have lots of those at my house.
This morning when my 8 year old grabbed the remote I cringed. It was supposed to be hidden. He knows I’m not happy that he’s watching tv, but he has told me he loved me 8 times in the last 40 minutes and every time I’ve answered, “I love you too.” I’m learning. We’ll reflect later.
In the meantime, I wrote this post.
A blog post by Lisa Swaboda