Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bad decisions and self punishment

I don't care who you are or what kind of childhood you had, we have all done something we aren't proud of. We have all made bad decisions. That's half of learning when you are growing up after all, mistakes. Some are bigger than other and cost more too, but if you learned something that eventually made you more of an adult, it might have been worth it.

That doesn't mean we should tell our kids to go out and do bad things. We should guide and advise them to the best of our parental abilities. The problem I want to address is when our spectrum kids start to punish themselves for those mistakes. I know I was angry with myself as a child. I didn't know why I kept "screwing up" and began to take a self punishing attitude. Today I have a better understanding and I try to use that with my son. Even so, I still see the possibility of self anger in him. So what can I do to help him understand that we all make bad decisions?

I'll put myself at his level. I remember bad decisions I made and what happened. I can tell him about my experiences so he knows that Dad was a kid once too. I'll be sure to let him know that, today, I'm not proud of those decisions but I sure won't mess them up again. Allow me to give you two examples.

Revenge: I was picked on mercilessly in school and it started in elementary. I was in 6th grade and one of my tormentors was coming at me with a snowball. He intended to shove it in my face, or so he said. He didn't see my friend, Big Jim, coming up from behind him. Jim gave him a bearhug that made him drop that snowball and I did something that surprised them both. I balled up my fist tight in my glove and threw my first right hook ever. Jim was so shocked he let go and that boy hit the ground. I got into a lot of trouble and the Principal asked if I was a bully too. My explanation fell on deaf ears, but I wasn't suspended. All the same, what I did was wrong. I'm not happy about the fact that I did it and I prefer not to get into fights. I'll still defend myself, but I'm not up for revenge. I'll tell my son that hitting didn't solve anything and was a very poor choice on my part.

Competition flaw: Spring of that same year found me walking to school with friends. For some reason we were getting into who could jump the farthest or run the fastest. I picked up a rock and stated I could throw it further than any of them. Naturally they didn't believe me. I said I could throw it clear over a nearby house into the street on the other side. And I went for it before anyone could say anything. I had just as much trouble with my impulses as my son sometimes has with his. The rock cleared the privacy fence and vanished from sight. Even though we couldn't see where it went, the crash of shattering glass was unmistakeable. I was in big trouble. Naturally I ran, and even tried to lie my way out of it. No dice on that and it made the situation much worse. I got a beating, extra chores, and a long grounding. Dad had to pay for the window and I had to write a letter of apology. One bad choice can lead to enough damage without trying to compound it with more bad choices.  Now, if I make a mess I own up to it. I'm the one who should clean up and pay the damage.

Bad choices, we all make them and certainly made them in childhood. We all went through something or other that we aren't proud of today. We survived and hopefully learned a lesson, tough or not. And we all want to be our kids heroes. We want to be that larger than life power for them. But, sometimes, I think it's okay to share our pitfalls with them so they can see it's not so different and not the end of the world. It's a good example for the truth that we must learn from our bad decisions and need not punish ourselves forever on them.

1 comment:

Billiam said...

Well put. If I ever have children, I won't tell them all my mistakes, but, like you, I have many lessons and experiences that will help. When I punched one of the bullies at my school, 7th grade it was, I didn't get in trouble, and he left me and my friends alone after that. I had a fast temper, but held it in until it HAD to come out. That was a big problem for most of my formative years, and caused me much grief.