We have big problems here. Parenting problems. The problems that arise when molding the little humans to functional big humans. The flavors of problems today are;
dishonesty, negligence, cowardice, and the hurting of another human being.
My oldest son(nine) has taken an interest in guns. Like many young males he likes to play war games on his xbox. Not very different from many kids. We started off with NERF guns around the house. We have a lot of fun with them and he had demonstrated responsibility and care for the use of NERF guns. Some of the nerf guns come with some pretty serious velocity, and in addition to that, they shoot smaller balls. When we use those NERF guns, he insists that everyone wear safety goggles that we bought. My youngest son (seven) doesn't like to play with those ones because they hurt. My oldest son respected that. Based upon that, his mom and I agreed that we will get him an airsoft gun, and with parental supervision we will take him outside and let him shoot it.
Two days ago my eldest son got his airsoft gun out(without permission) took aim a few feet behind his brother, and shot him in the back. It left a pretty nasty welt. He tried to convince his brother to cover for him, and lie about the welt. But the seven year old was crying pretty loudly. Afterwards he also told his brother that he was a tattletale(seriously?????).
Being the dad of two young boys you know certain conversations, certain problem areas, will inevitably arise. Broken windows, splitting up tussles, arguments over fair play are in this spectrum. There are other domains that are a bit harder. Some parents don't allow their kids to have phones. Other parents are like, let me show you how to open your browser on your new phone. If you completely restrict it, you don't have to show how to use it safely. Same goes with gun safety. I was hoping to approach guns with more moderation.
Back to my oldest. I was furious, disappointed, and of course, knew I failed here as well. I was beside myself because I should have known better. I also failed here. I didn't teach him well enough. And I felt it.
I don't do corporal punishment. I do believe there is a place for it, but on reflection, it is not that effective for behavioral change with my two boys. I am articulate. And my words are still effective with the boys. So I had to reflect on how I was going to handle my two kids. The incident occurred at their moms house and I had not directly talked to him yet. This conversation happened post facto about 12 hours afterwards(school and all).
Asking questions is important. Its easy for them to turn off their brain. So I ask questions, and I expect detailed responses. They need to learn, and they will need their brains to do so.
I told him I was very angry and disappointed with him. I told my oldest the story I heard from his mom and asked if that was correct. He confirmed it was. I asked him how he felt about what he did, he said he was ashamed. I asked about what he was ashamed about. He was ashamed he lied. I asked him what he thought I was the most angry about. He said that he thought I was angry about him lying.
Here was the important part. The make or break, meat of the potato moment. I told him the layers I was angry about. I'm older and more mature. So I see more. I told him I was disappointed that he chose to lie. I told him that I was furious that he chose to hurt another human being, especially his brother. I told him that I was ashamed that he chose to be a coward and try to hide his mistake.(The magic number is three, people remember in three's). I told him who I thought he was(character wise), and that these behaviors are not aligned with who he is. He caught an earful about being the oldest and his responsibility to his younger sibling, and how utterly shameful it is he chose to hurt another human being.
In the end he told me what three behaviors were expected, honesty, protecting his younger brother, and bravery. He can recite these if asked. I told him talk is cheap, and only behavior will prove he has learned. He is epicly grounded. In the process of cleaning right now.
For some, the above is grounds for a whoopin(no "g", its a southern thing). Had I chose that path, I don't think I would have been able to express the many layers that I saw his failings. T
I look at these problems that arise a bit differently than some. A quote comes to mind. Its actually a daily reminder on my Iphone. "For every disadvantage, there is a seed for an advantage." Napolean Hill.
Meaning, I have an opportunity here. I have a moment to teach a very good lesson. And the lessons that stick are the painful ones. So I knew this lesson, has to be articulate, it has to be clear, it has to be painful. School is in session.
Here is the part he doesn't know. I did nearly the same thing he did growing up. I'm not going to tell him for a long time. I don't want to excuse his behavior. As a parent I know that my biggest sticking points were my own failings growing up. I'm pretty sharp, but I was lousy in school. So guess who has two thumbs and is a giant pain in the ass about his kids school grades. This guy. When I talk to my friends about parenting, they also bring up that where they struggled growing up, they stress. In the end, we hope our kids will be better than us. So we stress our own failings.
By now you probably guessed that this isn't a parenting blog. It's a leadership blog. Looking and seizing those teaching moments is an "X" factor for successful teams. The leader sees more, before. The lessons to be taught are nuanced and many layered. For our younger team mates, the discussion of decision making and mindset is a constant. We are trying to make our people better than we were. We HOPE that they will be better than us. So we seize every opportunity to teach the lesson that is needed.
"For every disadvantage, there is the seed of an advantage."
School is in session.