Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm Teaching My Son How to Lie

This photo has nothing to do with this post. It just makes me laugh. 
My son, let's call him Hortensio, is a great kid. He's wicked smart, funny, outgoing and creative. He has boundless energy, which is amazing to watch and can, or course, be exhausting. But there is one element of his personality (that ahem he might have got from me) that I am not so crazy about. He never, ever, ever, ever wants to be wrong. (Or lose at anything - but that is a whole other blog post.)

If my wife or I ever disagree with Hortensio, or try and tell him he isn't right about something, he will argue with us until the cows come home, throw a house party, burn the house down, go to jail, get reformed and then start a non-profit to help build homes for other cows to come home to.

This really manifests itself when Hortensio occasionally (more than occasionally) finds himself in trouble. Let's say he is running around the yard like a crazy person and accidentally crashes into his sister. He will immediately insist that he didn't actually crash into her.  And that it was her fault. And that she made him push her, or that he was just swinging his arms and she ran into him. It's really hard for him to own up and say "You're right. I messed up. I'm sorry."

The other day Hortensio was trying to explain something to his brother and got really frustrated when he didn't get it. Hortensio started yelling at him and when I said "Hey, if you are trying to teach your brother something and he doesn't get it, yelling at him doesn't help. Do I yell at you if you are trying to learn something and you don't get it right away?" his response was "Well, I don't know because you never take the time to teach me anything new." Cat's in the cradle, bud. Cat's in the cradle.

The problem with this is that when he argues back and insists that he is in the right, he just gets in more trouble. All we want is for him to say he is wrong or say he is sorry. But often a small incident will turn into a big punishment because I get so frustrated with his talking back and arguing and insisting that he is right and I send him to his room. (This post is really making me look like a hack, right?)

The other night we had a big blow out fight, about something that I don't recall and he got sent to his room. I went down and was talking to him and said, "Sometimes, Mom and I just want you to say your sorry and feel bad about what you did. When you argue that it was someone else'
s fault, it just makes us more frustrated. If you say you are sorry, even if you don't totally feel sorry, things will go better for you."

Sure enough a few days later there was another incident where he lost his temper. And immediately became argumentative. And shortly thereafter got sent to his room. But surprisingly after a few minutes, he sheepishly came out and came up to me and said "Dad, I'm really sorry. I lost my temper and I was wrong. Is it OK if I come out of my room now?" And you know what? I let him out. Do I think he really was 100% sorry. Hmmm..probably not. Do I care? Not really. Does that make me a terrible parent? Absolutely. I felt like we won a small victory. Here he was taking responsibility and apologizing instead of going to his grave insisting that he was right. And maybe he was lying. And maybe I don't care.

So, help me out. Have I failed utterly as a parent because I let my son manipulate me and get out of a punishment? Or did I teach him a valuable life lesson because sometimes part of being a grown up is saying you are sorry for things that you might not really feel all that sorry about because it's the right thing to do? Do you need a .pdf version of this post to attach to my parent of the year application?  And please don't try and tell me that I am wrong. Because I am not. I'm just flailing my arms around and you ran into me.
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