Making Something Better After Making It Worse
“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.”
A negative Below the Line atmosphere filled the Hernandez household. Ahalf hour ago the siblings were
calling each other names, Dad was threatening the kids and yelling at them to stop slamming doors, and Mom had a headache and was in tears.
Later grilling hamburgers for supper in the backyard, Dad knew he had to get the family back on course. Having often used humor in his life to cope with stress, he noticed Halloween costumes hanging in the garage.
When the children went to the patio to complain about how hungry they were, they erupted with laughter. They saw Dad in a clown wig and red nose happily flipping burgers. Mom and the children joined in the fun by finding costumes to wear to dinner. Dad’s hamburgers were better than ever.
Every family has emotionally intense events: tantrums, tornadoes, sibling brawls or over-reacting parents. How can a family recover and move on without getting stuck in the negativity?
Like Mr. Hernandez, Top 20s desire and know how to make something better after they have made it worse. Rather than staying stuck in yuck, Top 20 Parents use three simple strategies to get beyond negative family experiences and feelings to reconciliation and a more satisfactory life.
Have you ever said something and wished you could ‘catch’ the words before they entered someone’s ears? Unfortunately we’re not quick enough to do that, but we can be wise enough to make it better by starting over.
When filming movies, actors repeat scenes again and again to createbetter versions of a scene. When the director says, “Cut”, everyone knows it’s time to Start Over. In families, Start Overs can look much the same.
Fran came down the steps carrying the basket of dirty laundry. For the second time this week she stumbled at the bottom step over the roller blades left by her daughter. Angrily, Fran found her daughter. “Karley, I’m forever falling over your roller blades. I nearly broke my neck. Get rid of them now and go to your room.”
“No. I won’t!” said Karley stomping her feet.
“That’s it. No more play time for you tonight. I’ve had enough of your lip. Go to your room and stay there.”
After Karley ran to her room, Fran began to think about what went wrong. She remembered telling her daughter to bring the roller blades in from outside but hadn’t designated an inside storage spot. Realizing Karley wouldn’t recognize the danger of leaving roller blades on the steps, Fran went to her daughter’s room.
“Karley, can we do a Start Over?”
“OK,” said Karley, still angry but willing to improve the situation.
Karley went back to where she had been playing as Fran set the roller blades at the bottom of the steps.
Calling her daughter to the steps, she said, “Karley, I was carrying the laundry down the steps and almost stepped on the roller blades. What do you think would have happened next?”
“You’d fall and could get hurt,” said Karley.
“Yes. Where can you put the roller blades so they’re not dangerous?”
“Umm, I could put them in the closet,” said Karley warming to the idea of being asked to problem solve. “Or you could give me a sports bag like Daddy uses for his basketball stuff.”
“That’s a good idea. For now, please put them in the closet.”
By using a Start Over, Fran and Karley made something better after they had made something worse. They felt better and changed the tone of the rest of the evening. Furthermore, Karley learned what she can do in the future with her roller blades.
Start Overs express hope in the relationship by showing care and concern about the feelings of others when interactions go poorly. Aparent can introduce the Start Over in different ways:
“This hasn’t gone the way I’d like it to. Can we start over?”
“I don’t feel good about this. I think we can make this better. Let’s try it again.”
FORGIVING AND FORGETTING
Stephen Covey believes that the ultimate test of a relationship comes in forgiving. We will always be a victim until we forgive. When we truly forgive, we open the channels through which trust and unconditional love can flow. Forgiveness is a deposit in the Trust Fund.
When an event is over and forgiven, it needs to be laid to rest or forgotten. To bring the matter up again would be to negate the progress a family has made in reconciling. The Hernandez family was able to move on because the original fight was forgiven and forgotten. The outcome would have been much different if during dinner Dad rehashed the fight again to lay blame.
“Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
Humor can bring about reconciliation in a family. Positive humor defuses
stressful situations and mends hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
Healthy families can laugh with one another, using a funny situation as a
shared experience. The Hernandez family’s costumed dinner is a great
example of sharing laughter.
Bottom 80 families laugh at one another. Their personal shortcomings become family jokes. Many Hits are given in the disguise of humor. If we are committed to making things better after making things worse, we need to watch the tone of our humor. Top 20 families laugh at the situation, but not at the people involved.
While making Thanksgiving dinner, Shari left the boiled potatoes soaking in the water. Mashing them later, she realized they had soaked too long and turned into mush. During dinner, people said, “Pass the mush,” with a good-natured twinkle in their eyes. The grandmothers used the experience to talk about their own cooking disasters. Anew family bonding tradition emerged with cooking disasters being told every year.
“Talk happiness. The world is sad enough.”
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
DEVELOPMENTAL NEWS FLASH!!!
Young children are concrete learners. Children will have trouble talking about the abstract concept of forgiveness. Start Overs physically reenact a situation concretely so that children can learn about cause and effect and relationships in a ‘hands on’ way.
Young children have trouble connecting their actions with the results they get. Children don’t always know what details to focus on the first time an event plays out. Start Overs help a child focus on what was missed the first time, builds empathy and gives parents the opportunity to discuss how an event looks from another’s point of view.
Our parenting journey is long and arduous. Because we sometimes act on limited information, we will make mistakes along the way. In and of themselves, these detours are not failures. How we respond to these episodes, however, will determine whether or not a small wrong turn takes a family completely off course.
TIME FOR ACTION
For Parents to Do:
1. Remember a time when you regretted saying something to another person. If you could start over again,
how you would change what you said?
2. How has forgiveness brought you peace in the past? Do you forget past wrongs or keep bringing an offense up with a family member?
3. When was the last time you were silly or had a good laugh? What keeps you from being silly or using humor to diffuse situations?
To Do with Your Child:
1. Practice Start Overs with your child. Then when a real situation occurs, she will be familiar with the process.
2. Cultivate times for silliness, fun and humor with your child. Try to share a laugh every day.
3. Look for opportunities to say “I forgive you” or “I’m sorry” after an event has taken the family off course.
4. Hug your child often.