This past week I witnessed an incident where a mom berated her daughter for losing her purse. I saw a crying girl (about 12 years old) and her mom looking for something so I asked if I could help. Several people helped to look for the missing purse but to no avail. This girl helps out with a ministry that serves the homeless in the area, and every week all the volunteers are instructed and reminded to keep track of their belongings at all times. Apparently this girl didn’t keep track of her purse and it disappeared. When her mom came to pick her up, she was unhappy that her daughter had lost her purse.
In front me and another lady, the mom scolded her daughter sharply:
“Oh. . . stop crying! Grow up!”
Her daughter’s only response was continued tears.
“Well, this will teach you to be responsible. Didn’t I tell you to keep track of your purse?”
Again, no response.
“Stop your crying. At least it wasn’t your wallet in your purse, but just your cell phone that got lost.”
As before, the girl had nothing to say, she was so broken up about the whole thing. I was a bit taken aback and felt awkward because I didn’t know how to respond. I listened and did my best to help.
This incident left me thinking a lot. I felt sympathy for both the mom and the daughter. I know what it’s like to lose something and then to be faced with “I told you so.” On the other hand, I have sympathy for the mom because I also know what it’s like to remind the kids hundreds of times to be responsible, don’t forget your belongings, etc. The children don’t seem to get it until they lose it. I can see myself reacting in the same manner as this mom, though I most likely wouldn’t do it in front of others. Seeing this mom’s sharp response and being faced with my own failings, it causes me to think about how I can better respond to my children when they do not-so-bright things.
I need to first recognize that my children, no matter the age, will do stupid things even after repeated warnings. This is a fact that I simply have to accept. When I’m tempted to say, “Oh why oh why? Why me?” I am as guilty as my children because I, too, am prone to doing stupid things and making silly mistakes. My mistakes may look different than my children’s, but they are still mistakes.
I need to respond graciously to my children even when I’m so tempted to say, “I told you so” as my first response. Comments like “I told you so” aren’t helpful and are usually destructive. How does that build my relationship with my child? How does it help to recover the lost item? I can only imagine the distance this mom has further created between her and her daughter by berating her. I can certainly understand the mom’s frustration, but again, parents need to respond to even trying circumstances with graciousness. It’s never wise to respond out of emotions in the heat of the moment.
When everyone is calm and have accepted the fact that the lost item cannot be recovered, I need to sit down and dialogue with the child. My “lecture” will then be more effective and more readily accepted by the child. I can talk about strategies and ways the child can be more responsible in the future. In the meantime, I need to look at the failure to keep track of one’s belongings as a past event — forgiven and forgotten — not an evidence that I can bring up and hold it against the child when she fails again in the future.
As I interact with my children, the more I see that I’m often incapable of keeping my cool. I may keep my cool for a day, several days, sometimes even weeks, but inevitably, my old habits come back to haunt me. Of course I feel bad that I failed. . . . .again. I want to be better, I want to respond with graciousness, I want to show them that I still love them, etc. Yet the more I fail, the more I realize that I need God to help me overcome my weakness. Because of God’s power and grace, I have hope that I can be a better mom to my children.