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Changing Your Mind

That’s Not Fair!

HandsKids have an amazing ability to quickly judge whether something is fair or not. I remember my dad doing the cup experiment on us when I was little. Since it’s been about 36 years ago, I’m going to take some artistic liberty in telling the story. He set up the experiment by choosing three different sized of cups and then measuring the exact same amount of juice into each cup. Then he called us three boys over and had us fight over which one we wanted. I remember two things. First, as predicted, we wanted the cup that looked the most full, with the juice almost flowing over. Second, I had a sense that my dad was up to something and there must be a trick. As brothers we could have argued for hours and I, as the little brother, was determined not to get the small glass but before we were allowed to drink, he measured it all out and showed us that it was fair not matter which cup we were drinking from.

There are times that we as parents change our mind. We tell our kids one thing but in the end we do something else. This isn’t a problem for most kids if you say that you are going to eat broccoli and then have ice cream instead. However, they will react with great drama and pain if, instead of the promised movie, you spend the day cleaning out the garage.

One of the things we learn in life is that things don’t always go our way. When our girls were really little we told them that once all our Sunday work was done, we would go the the carousel right across the river in Portland. When we got to the mall, the entire building was gone. It was impossible to ride the horses. I did a quick web search and learned that there were no carousels within a days drive. The girls were devastated but there was no other choice than to figure out a “plan B”.

The two pressures on us parents is that we want our kids to be able to trust us. If we constantly change our mind, then they learn that we aren’t reliable and we set them up for not trusting or even worse, becoming comfortable with being untrustworthy. The other extreme is being caught up in fulfilling every promise insulating our kids from learning about reality.  We forget that life is unpredictable and what is right for our kids may change. We have to constantly balance our grace and firmness for the best interest of our kids, even if it could seem unfair.

So, how do you change your mind without driving your kids crazy.

  1. Don’t change for change sake. Life has enough lessons about change without you having to seek change to demonstrate that life isn’t fair.
  2. See if from their perspective. It may not seem like a major change to you, but try to put yourself into their shoes. It also could seem like a major change to you and not be a big deal to them. When in doubt, ask.
  3. Share your thoughts. They don’t know what is going on in your mind and how you may be not frustrated because you’ve already formulated a new plan. Take some time and talk though not only the disappointment but the process of considering and choosing another option.
  4. Follow through. If you had to change plans and decided to do something ”next time”, then make sure there is a next time. Put it on your calendar right away and make sure to consider a couple options especially if what you are doing could be canceled again due to unpredictable things like the weather.

Your kid’s trust is something to not take lightly. They want to depend on you and you don’t have to lose credibility or trust when things need to change, as long as you communicate and connect through the process.

Do you remember a disappointing change from your childhood? How was it handled?  Has it impacted how you deal with change with your family?