Saturday morning I was working on cleaning the kitchen, getting recycling organized, cleaning counters, stuff like that. The house was in full child mode, the older three were downstairs doing something that made a thud every few minutes. The two youngest girls were in the recliners, movie on but their attention on the books in their laps. My wife was getting ready for the day.
I had started on the clean dishes in the dishwasher when my second son said, “Dad, I hit my nightlight and now all the lights downstairs don’t work.”
What?, I thought. And I felt the knee-jerk reaction of parental frustration start forming in my head with the words already on my lips. I don’t know why, but sometimes life gives us a moment to learn from, and I gave myself a few moments to think by saying, “OK, what happened?” in a calmer tone. Just under the frustration a thought had pushed through, if I wanted my son to continue to talk to me when things happened, when he might have made a mistake, then I had better pay attention to how I handled this situation.
By bumping his nightlight he threw the breaker for that part of the basement. Not a big issue, I switched the breaker back on and changed the light bulb in his nightlight. Problem solved. But I haven’t always handled simple situations with calm; too many times that knee-jerk frustration sets the tone for that moment. I realize I need to change that habit. If my son has a problem and he gets negative responses from me every time, even before I have figured out what is going on, then he will simply stop coming to me for help. I don’t want that to happen.
We teach people who we are by our habit of response. And they will act accordingly. As I thought about how we influence students I thought of one of the most patient and strong colleagues I have worked with, Mrs. Moss at Centura. Every morning she was helping students with math problems. Every morning! They knew she would be there for them, they could ask their questions and know she would help them. Mrs. Moss’ habit was to smile and say, “Let’s look at that problem.”
I hope to be as good of a teacher and parent as Mrs. Moss, to create a habit of response that lights the way to a positive reaction to the situation instead of a knee-jerk negative comment.