This guest post is by Sally Berenzweig, M.Ed, MA & Cherie Benjoseph,LCSW
Let’s face it, we all make mistakes– we as adults and parents are not perfect and we make our fair share of them. The thing is to learn from those mistakes, atone, apologize and then move on. But as you read this blog think about this – do you let your child see your imperfections? Do you share with your children when you have made mistakes? Do you share how you “feel” about choices and mistakes you have made? Do your children see you working through life’s daily challenges so you can be a role model for them? If not, what message are we sending to our children about learning from our mistakes and then in turn teaching them to learn from their mistakes?
Our Children make mistakes: I know it is hard to hear but neither you nor your children are perfect – and quite frankly do you want them to be or think that your child could do no wrong? Well they can and they do! What kind of reasonable expectations around the issue of making mistakes are you setting for your children?
Our children learn not from what we say but from watching what we do. If your children think (are under the impression that) you don’t make mistakes, that you are “perfect” do you think they are going to come to you for help when they make a mistake? Probably not! Because if you are “perfect” and don’t make mistakes they think they should be perfect and not make them too.
Part of growing up and developing is making mistakes and learning from them. We need to allow our children to make mistakes and be there for them to talk to and teach them how to process the mistakes and then learn from them. This teaches children about consequences…if you do this…that will happen. If we helicopter parent our children, if we are not honest with our children, we are stunting their growth, not allowing them to develop their conscience, not allowing them the opportunity, for example, to feel embarrassed or ashamed of their actions and therefore make a decision to change their behavior and not make the same mistake next time.
How to Combat Bullying: So as we all sit around and worry about bullying and cyber bullying and keeping our children safe we need to stop and think about how we are parenting our children, what skills are we teaching them to be good people who have empathy, who think before acting, who feel badly when they have done wrong? How are we leading by example? One way we teach this in KidSafe is through our lesson on Cyber Bullying. Our goal is to help children use their inner safety voice to stop and think about consequences of their actions. But if we haven’t convinced you yet keep reading as we show you one of our Cyber Bullying lesson role plays for 4th grade.
Cyber Bully Role Play: We role play a true story. I, the KidSafe Teacher, am the kid that makes the mistake. I pretend to be at a girl’s sleepover party and take pictures of all the girls. One embarrassing picture of my friend Jill I send with nasty comments to two boys in the class who think it is hilarious and they then send it to everyone they know – post on Facebook, and write more embarrasing comments – a clear case of cyber bullying. The next day at school everyone is talking about Jill and this picture. Jill is upset when she finds out what I did. (I am not even aware of the damage I have done until I arrive at school the next day.)
We then discuss as a class Jill’s feelings about what I did: angry, sad, embarrassed, humiliated, nervous, frustrated, confused. Why would my friend do that?
I ask the class: What was the mistake I made? What is the rule about sending/posting pictures? They answer – Think before you post and ask yourself, “What would my parents, principal, police or predator think about what I am doing?” – whether it is a picture of yourself or someone else. Children taking the time to ask themselves this question might be enough for them to stop and make a better choice.
I ask the class:. “Did I think before I sent the picture of Jill to the boys? They answer NO – I ask the class: “What are the consequences of my actions”: Their answer: Jill doesn’t want to be your friend, the rest of the girls don’t trust you now, if you could do it to Jill you would do it to them, the boys think the same. Teachers and principals might also get involved and I could have consequences at school. What if Jill tells her parents and they call my parents? How do I feel about this thoughtless mistake that I made? Kids Answer: embarrassed, ashamed, regretful.
What can I do to make things better? How can I regain the trust of my friend Jill? Respect from my peers? We then discuss appropriate ways to apologize, face up to our mistakes, and role play what that looks like. This lesson teaches children that there are an extraordinary amount of consequences for not taking a moment to use their inner safety voice and ask is this a safe and smart choice? One stupid mistake can cause so many consequences. This is a tough pill to swallow for a 4th grader – a 4th grader will need to process this with a parent she trusts, a parent who is available, a parent she feels she can talk to…ask yourself are you that parent?
Parenting is the answer: Being a present parent is not only necessary but mandatory for what is going on in our society now. As parents we need to ask ourselves what kind of citizens are we raising? Do we want our child to be thoughtless or thoughtful? Do we want our child to be part of the problem or part of the solution? We have said this before but it is worth repeating. The goal for most parents is to have their children do better in life then they did – well for that to happen – we the parents have to be better and be present in our children’s lives…not to live it for them, not to helicopter and stifle them, but be there to pick them up when they fall and help them understand the message and the lessons in the mistakes they make. Just a final note – we do NOT recommend 4th graders have cell phones or have Facebook accounts but they have them and they are on them so we need to teach them how to use this technology responsibly. For more parent tips and information visit our web site www.kidsafefoundation.org.
Sally Berenzweig, M.Ed, MA & Cherie Benjoseph,LCSW
Cofounders of 501(C)3 nonprofit KidSafe Foundation
Child Safety Experts, Authors & Moms