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Challenge: Open Discussion

Be Okay With Being Wrong and All Will Be Right!

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A few years back, a typical conversation between me and my son would go like this:

Son: “Can I go to Joey’s house tonight?”

Me: “Tell me more? What’s going on at Joey’s?”

Son: “He invited me to come over and just hang out and spend the night.”

Me: “Hmm, I guess I’m ok with you going over, but I think you should sleep at home tonight.”

Son: “WHAT! WHY?? That is SO DUMB!!”

Me: “Well, you have practice first thing tomorrow morning, and last time you did a sleepover the night before, it didn’t go so well.”

Son: “That’s RIDICULOUS, it was FINE! That’s not even true! You are so strict. You’re the most strict parent of all of my friends. Everyone says so.”

Me: “That isn’t true, first of all, Timmy’s not even allowed to spend the night at anyone else’s house ever. And also, it wasn’t fine. When we came to pick you up, we had to wait 15 minutes for you because you were impossible to wake up. Then, you were late to practice, and could barely function once you were there.”

Son: “You’re crazy, none of that is true! You just make up rules…”

And on and on it went. This conversation and different versions of it played out for YEARS in my home. They usually ended with both of us completely angry and a door or two being slammed, and an ugly word or two (or ten) uttered. Sometimes, I’m ashamed to admit, I’d even cave after being worn down by my son’s incredible will to argue every point. “Just go!” I’d shout, “You’ll see I’m right when you get yelled at by your coach for being late and not playing your best.” That was my version of “I’ll show you!”

These conversations, (more like screaming matches), would leave me feeling so demoralized and defeated as a parent. I know my son was equally upset and frustrated, but I couldn’t seem to break the pattern.

Fortunately, I came across an incredible podcast by Dr. Brad Reedy in which he suggested, “Let your kids be right.” This seemed like perfectly foolish advice, and I almost switched over to my favorite unsolved crime podcast right then and there. I mean, why would I do this? Wouldn’t this not just open, but smash into pieces the proverbial “Pandora’s Box?” I couldn’t help it though. I decided I needed to know where this guy was going with this dangerous advice, so I listened some more, and surprisingly what he was saying began to really make sense. I mean what actually are we hoping for when we get into these debates over the merits of our decisions with our children? “Oh wow Mom, I never thought of it that way, you are SO right! I am definitely not spending the night out, that would be a poor choice. Thanks mom!” said NO KID EVER.

So why do we do it then? The answers are simple. Because we don’t know any better. Because we so desperately want them to understand and accept our point of view. Because we are hopeful that one day it will work. Because we are fearful of just setting and keeping a boundary. The alternative…and it is brilliant, is to let them be right, mom and dad, just let them be right.

The new conversation goes something like this:

Son: “Can I go to Joey’s house tonight?”

Me: “Tell me more, what’s going on at Joey’s?”

Son: “He invited me to come over and just hang out and spend the night.”

Me: “Hmm, I guess I’m ok with you going over, but I think you should sleep home tonight.”

Son: “WHAT! WHY?? That is SO DUMB!!”

Me: “Well, you have practice first thing tomorrow morning and last time you did a sleepover the night before, it didn’t go so well.”

Son: “That’s RIDICULOUS, it was FINE! That’s not even true, you are so strict! You’re the most strict parent of all of my friends. Everyone says so.” … Here’s where it ALL changes!

Me: “You are probably right, I may be, but I’m just not comfortable with you spending the night tonight.”

Son: “I am right!” (This actually happened the first time I tried this! He actually visibly relaxed.)

Me: “Probably so, and I know it’s disappointing. You really wish you could go, but tonight it just isn’t going to work out. I’m happy to take you to hang out for a few hours, and we would pick you up by 10. Let us know what you decide within the hour.”

In this new version, I am allowing my son to be right, and I am also demonstrating that I understand how he feels. The debate ends right there. I am not being sarcastic or condescending at all. I really mean it. I truly may be the most strict parent, our rule may be dumb, we may be the only one who won’t allow it. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter. As a parent it is our job to set the boundaries based on what we are and are not comfortable with, and then communicate them effectively and finally, follow through confidently.

That’s all there is to it, and it is beautiful in its powerful simplicity. Best of luck on your journey to wrongness, let me know how it goes!

Resource: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-myth-of-being-right-2019/id1157223571?i=1000432925253

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