I have to admire our fourteen year old daughter. She obviously knew the consequences for what she was about to tell us. She could easily have held back until after the upcoming three-day weekend, but she told us anyway. The minute my husband and I walked in the door last night, she bravely handed us a piece of paper and announced,
“Progress reports came out today. I got an ‘N’ in behavior from my math teacher.”
I think it is important to understand that, in the 23 years we have had children in school, this has happened only one other time. Our children know that getting in trouble at school means getting into more trouble when they get home. However, because the rest of our daughter’s progress report was “perfect…all A’s (including this math class) and outstanding or at least satisfactory behavior in every other class, I felt prompted to listen to her perception of why she received an “N.” She admitted to talking a lot in class and how she knows it frustrates that particular teacher. But as she described the teacher’s reactions to her and other students in the class, it became apparent to me that the teacher has her own behavior problems. We made it clear to our daughter that her behavior grade was unacceptable despite how other people behaved. We discussed the need to exercise better self-control and what she can do to avoid making the same mistake. A gentle reprimand seemed to be the best approach.
This morning, while I braided her hair, our daughter seemed unusually quiet. Eventually, she sighed heavily and said,
“I really don’t like holding my tongue!”
I’m glad she had her back to me so she couldn’t see me smile. I almost choked trying not to laugh. Opinions flow freely at our family dinner table and I’m well aware we have fostered her natural strong will. How many times had I thought about how good it would feel to say exactly what I was thinking? I remembered how I once admired an elderly sister in our ward who could say whatever she thought and get away with it. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. Then the parent part of me took over, reminded me of our conversation the night before, and told me to seize the moment and give lecture number 1001. Instead, I chose to validate our daughter’s feelings and be completely honest with her.
“Yeah, sometimes it really stinks when you see someone doing something really s-t-u-p-i-d and you want to tell them how you feel.”
“It’s really hard, Mom.”
“It is hard. But you always have a choice. And you always have consequences to those choices. Think about the consequences of speaking your mind and weigh them against the amount of satisfaction you get by saying them. Is it really worth it in the end? What is your goal? What do you want to create for yourself?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
I finished her braids, gave her a hug, and from my spot on the stairs, watched our daughter gather her books and lunch and head towards the door to catch the bus. She stopped, turned to look at me, and smiled her dimpled, mouth-full-of braces smile.
“Thanks, Mom. I love you.”
Those are words I hope she always feels like saying.