When my daughter was in first grade, silly bands were all the rage. It wasn’t enough to have the few that she did, the whole arm had to be stacked with them, clear to the elbow.
One day while playing with our neighbor who was a few years older, I noticed her collection of silly bands had more than doubled by the time she arrived home. I’m pretty sure those things can’t reproduce on their own and had my suspicions about what went down next door.
When I asked her why she had so many more now than she did a few hours ago, her cheeks flushed and a lie tumbled from her sweet little lips. “Bronwyn gave them to me,” she said pulling one band from the collection.
I didn’t want to believe my daughter was capable of doing such a thing. I wanted to snuggle in my comfortable spot of thinking her friend actually had gifted her those bands. But I know my daughter and her body language was speaking loud and clear— “I STOLE THEM!” it screamed. It was a crime driven by passion and greed to have more silly bands than all the kids in the entire first grade put together, apparently.
I made her walk next door (by herself), knock on the door, explain what she did, and return the plastic animal-shaped jewels. And it wasn’t easy.
Her big brown eyes formed little circles as she looked up at me. First, she thought I was kidding because they were given to her. Then, she realized I knew what had really happened, and her expression was enough to make me want to change my mind, take her in my arms, and hope her friend simply wouldn’t notice my daughters arm was dripping with her lovely trinkets. But, my desire to not raise an entitled thief was a bit stronger so, I stood my ground.
“I’m going to call over there and make sure you did the right thing,” I told her choking back large mama tears before I let them flow as I watched the back of her head cross our lawn.
How to Teach Your Teens to Right a Wrong
Since that day, I’ve had to partake in more of these moments that I care to admit.
I’ve had my kids write unsolicited apology notes for being jerks to their teachers.
I’ve asked the school’s superintendent to scare the daylights out of my son his Sophomore year of high school when he thought screwing around and being disrespectful at school was more important than classroom learning (not to mention his future). My son was unconcerned about the amount of energy the teacher had to focus on his bad behavior.
Over the years there are many moments when we parents have to make our kids right a wrong.
Sometimes, we know it was an innocent mistake like, being rude to a friend in an argument with, but we prompt them to be the first to apologize anyway. Other times we know that they knew exactly what they were doing and fixing the screw up is going to be a lot harder. Like, mouthing off to their science teacher in front of the whole class.
Getting them to right a wrong is a tough, but necessary, responsibility we have as parents and I’m pretty sure we all hate it despite the fact that we know it’s the correct thing to do.
It’s excruciating and heart-wrenching to witness them try to fix their mess-ups, but we all know the alternative is watching them screw up again and again while we walk behind them sweeping up their mess.
Shout out to all the parents out there trying to steer their kids in the right direction by making their own their mistakes. I know it’s your least favorite part of this thankless job, and you deserve a trophy and a lifetime supply of chocolate for your hard work. One day, they will be grateful that you made them step up, and that will be thanks enough.
We can only hope.
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