My oldest daughter turns 13 in three months. The next one is only twenty months behind. Pray for me.
The first is a typical Type A oldest child with a drive for independence and assertiveness that qualifies her to run for public office. I admire her tenacity, work ethic, and drive for excellence. I also fear her wrath. She’s moody and fiercely defensive. Anyone relate?
For a long time, I’ve felt that it’s my place to keep her temper and backtalk in line. I reprimand and chastise in an effort to teach her manners and respect. But this year is all about LOVE. Showing my children love definitely doesn’t mean letting them be disrespectful or obnoxious but it does mean teaching them how to hold their tongue and that is often best done by example.
Two weeks ago I dropped my daughter off at a new barn for her third riding lesson there. She is still learning where everything is and trying to please. I wanted to stay but she asked if she could “do this on [her] own” so I said goodbye and started my drive home. Halfway there, she called to tell me that lessons were canceled that day. She was embarrassed and upset. When I retrieved her, she was not happy. “This is why I asked you if you confirmed with them...You didn’t read the email well enough…They already hate me and this just makes it worse…This is so embarrassing.” No, I hadn’t confirmed. Yes, I had misread the email. No, they don’t hate her. To me it was no big deal. She got there and no one was there to teach so I just picked her up. So what? To her it felt much bigger.
I made the choice to hold my tongue. She went on for a few minutes then fell silent. We sat there with nothing but the sound of the car and her brother chattering in the background. I kept wondering if there was something I could say to make things better but knew there was no help I could offer. I had already apologized for not confirming. I felt any words I would try to offer would only be to talk her out of her feelings instead of validating them. Then, out of the silence, she said, “I’m sorry I talked to you like that. I was just really embarrassed and had asked you to confirm before we went.”
Just like that, it was over. She needed to get it out. When her frustration was given a voice her mind was able to settle. She is a good girl. She knows what is right and wants to make good choices. Sometimes I just need to let her vent and then let the silence work its magic.
I have repeated this approach since then. Sometimes it doesn’t work and tension lingers longer than I’d like, but she always finds herself again. I know there is a place for discipline and correction, but at some point my children have to be allowed to fall. And when that happens, I will hold on with love...it always comes back.