April 26, 2013
We got a call from my children's principle last week to tell us that one of our children had punched another kid in the face and knocked out their tooth. Though the teachers suspected the kid's tooth was already loose.
I was stunned.
Yes this child has acted out before and has had some trouble with tantrums at school, but it had been a long time since we've had an incident, and they had certainly never hurt someone before! I could not really fathom that they would just... punch someone!
I thought for sure they would get sent home from school at the very least, or even suspended or something. But the principle assured my husband that they had everything under control at the school and that they had just wanted to let us know about the incident.
I confess I thought it odd that they weren't taking some sort of serious action against our child. And what about the other kid? How would their parents react?
Hubby and I talked on the phone and worked out how we would handle it and what the consequences would be. We were both feeling incredibly worried at this point.
For the rest of day I felt like the world's worst mom.
Where did we go wrong? What have I done to my child that would create this kind of lack of control or caring for another person? Thoughts and questions swirled through my brain for the whole afternoon as I struggled with my epic parenting failure.
But I had been taught more by example than by words from my own parents, that every child has a right to explain their side of the story. My parents always listened to us.
So when my children came home, I called in this child and asked them to explain what had happened.
This was their version.
A kid behind them was trying to pull on my child's hat (a winter beanie) while they were standing in line. Because of this my child turned around and pretty soon they were goofing off and pretend karate chopping each other. As my child went to swipe the other kid with their hat, a miscalculation in the heat and fun of the moment caused my child to accidentally hit the other child in the mouth with his hand instead of the hat.
The story was told without hesitation or embellishment. I knew they were telling the truth. My children are still young enough that it's obvious when they lie. They hesitate because they know lying is wrong, they won't look at me, and they take time to think about what they are going to say.
Thankfully we have taught our children to be honest so lying is not a big issue.
It had started to be at one point with one child, until it occurred to me that this child was afraid of getting in trouble. They were extra sensitive to that and so would come up with stories to get out of trouble.
We worked out ways of clearing that up so now we don't have a problem with it.
Anyway, as I listened to my child's story, I realized that it had merely been an accident caused by two children who were goofing off together.
When I asked if the other child was upset that their tooth was knocked out, my child said no, they were actually happy because the tooth was loose and they really wanted it out so they could put it under their pillow for the tooth fairy.
That was sure a whole different take on my child "punching someone in the mouth and knocking their tooth out" and explained why the other child wasn't upset or that my child wasn't in trouble at school.
My relief was palpable.
I called Hubby right away and explained what really happened, his relief was obvious as well. We still talked to our child about how they shouldn't have tried to hit the other kid with their hat, but the consequences we had planned on earlier were no longer necessary.
I can't help but think how important it is that our children can trust us.
And especially that they can trust that we will trust them.
Each child is different and there is certainly not a "one plan fits all" for building that trust or even in some cases, honesty. But I truly believe that if we will take the time to listen and try to understand, children will want to tell you the truth, even if it isn't always good.
Giving your child a chance to explain their point of view is key. Because so often, their understanding is limited and their viewpoint is vastly different from ours.
I'm so glad I listened.