Today I found a very important appliance broken. I was enraged... Like how could this have happened. I fought the urge of rousing my crew from their sleep to pursue a full investigation with a schizophrenic one person "good cop/bad cop" routine; so I waited patiently until everyone was awake.
Normally I don't care if something breaks. Kids break things because they are curious about how stuff works. So they might cut something open, they rip stuff off, they chew on things or pour liquids into important items... Meh, I'm usually good with that. But this was expensive and somewhat irreplaceable. It would be very costly to fix or replace and I was really not having it at all.
Finally, my 3 pack wakes up. Calmly I ask, "Who broke this? Who tore or cut this off of my machine?". Three sets of eyes blinked in hesitation. I could feel the fear come over them. So I asked again a little more aggressively, "Who cut this off of here?". Silence. One looked at the other who then diverted her attention to a distant non existent audience. Voices emerged with all kinds of low mumbling "not me" garbage. This is the quintessential answer to every child infraction... "Not me". "I don't know". Not willing to rat themselves or each other out, I decided to try something new. I could feel the heat rising in me and I did not want to lose control. I took a deep breath.
"Ok, ok. I am going to turn my back. Listen... you will not get in trouble for this. Please let me know who broke my stuff". I turned around to find the pressure lifted and little hearts filled with relief. Eyes continued to dart back and forth but the atmosphere seemed to be one where honesty could thrive. As a parent, I am more focused on whether I can trust my kids (their ability to relinquish truths) over whether they do everything I want, because we all make mistakes. Taking the pressure off of kids so that they can be honest is important and usually when we mess up it's selfish. Thinking that a child does something to YOU is ridiculous, they aren't breaking rules with you in mind, if they were thinking of you they wouldn't be breaking any rules... So don't take it personal.
Finally a confession comes sobbing out. "I did it mommy". The other pairs of eyes moved toward the direction of the confession with great care. My oldest, it seemed, had sacrificed herself for the group. I know my kids and I know what crimes each one is capable of and this is NOT her kind of infraction. "Are you SURE you did it? Did you have any help? Are you sure someone else didn't do it?". Silence and more sobs. Carefully I spoke with her in front of the others about the importance of respecting the belongings of others. As a mom you know. So rather than a punishing moment it became a teaching moment for EVERYONE.
I thought about it for a few hours. Actually I was impressed and concerned that my oldest would sacrifice herself for the good of the group. She must understand the role of the eldest but it made me realize we need to touch base on other older sister responsibilities. Either way I learned that this group has melded and bonded together. Outside of the minor selfish tattle, I also learned that there are no snitches... for the big things. It's a weird feeling to be out numbered so I'll definitely keep working on my compassionate iron fist.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.