You Owe Them This

You know your kids are good. You’ve seen their sweetness, their cuteness since the beginning. You’ve seen them try. You’ve seen them feel shame when they’ve messed up.

You also know how hard it is to be a person, let alone a kid, in this world. Life is frustrating. Life is tough. It’s full of temptations. It’s easy to make mistakes. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

You know all this, yet how often is it reflected in how you treat them? Or how you treat situations involving them–the vase they broke, the lie they told, the test they failed, the punch they threw? As Dr. Becky writes in her amazing book Good Inside (a must read!), when we look at something our kids did or said, we should ask ourselves the question, “What is my most generous interpretation of what just happened?” When you ask this question, she says, you’ll notice yourself softening, and your interactions will go better.

They’re sad that they didn’t get included. They’re tired, as we’ve talked about before. Or they’re hungry. This is why they’re acting the way they’re acting. They were trying to be careful, they were trying to do what you asked—but they’re clumsy and easily distracted. They’re just being a kid, they’re trying to have fun, and they don’t yet fully understand the consequences of their actions. They’re a teenager full of hormones making them crazy.

Approaching your kid’s action with the Most Generous Interpretation doesn’t mean you excuse everything, that you never hold them accountable for anything. It just means you give them the benefit of the doubt, you start from the place that you should be starting from—which is that your kids are good inside, that they’re doing the best they can, that life is hard for everyone—and even harder when you’re small.

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