Each stage of childhood requires new creativity and ingenuity from us, the parents, because our children are at a new level of cognitive understanding, and in my case, a new level of hormones. My children are 13 (boy), 10 (boy), and 8 (girl), all three of them seem to be entering puberty at the same time, or maybe the oldest is just rubbing off onto the younger two. Either way, at this age it is definitely time for them to be solving their own problems and learning to work through their mutual conflicts without me.
Lying is not an uncommon thing at our house, so there is no way for me to tell who is at fault. My newest method is to point out to both children involved, that there is no way for me to make everything fair, that most likely both parties are at fault in some way, and that they need to think about how they could have acted differently to a) defuse the situation before it escalated into a fight OR b) create a solution instead of a problem. I can often be heard reminding my children of our personal family mantras of being a team and honesty.
When it comes to apologizing, I demand specific wording, eye contact, and sincerity. When one of my children finds no fault in their own behavior, I can still have them apologize in a way that they are being sincere. Let’s say my 10-year old boy felt wronged by his older brother’s behavior, maybe big brother ignored him or pretended not to hear him. So, little brother shoved him as he walked past him in the kitchen. Little brother’s feelings were hurt, is that where the conflict started? Actually, from experience and because I know my oldest doesn’t just ignore people I know it started before that. I get them to each admit where they went wrong and what they could have done differently. This does not always work in the heat of the moment, but over time they become quicker at acknowledging what part they played in the conflict.
As my babies have turned into pre-teens, I have found that I have to be more forgiving of myself. Life is complicated and busy; we don’t always have time for perfect heart-felt moments of conversation, apologies, and family mantra discussions. I continuously remind myself that example goes a long way in teaching children good behaviors. Modeling the behaviors and traits that I want my children to cultivate gives them a chance to see the family principles in action. If I am yelling or demeaning, they will learn that those behaviors are how we act if we are tired, hungry, or frustrated. Instead, I will tell my kids that I am tired, hungry or frustrated and so my patience isn’t what it should be. Explaining to them that I am having a tough time making kind choices, sometimes, helps them to be empathic and then we all cut each other some slack.
When I make a mistake I am quick to apologize. And let’s just be honest here, I am a normal, moody, mom and so apologies are common. My children are understanding when I make a mistake. I see my visible mistakes as another learning opportunity for my children. People are not perfect and I do not demand perfection. But, I do, of course, expect mistakes to be acknowledged and apologized for.