I recently took out a tube of toothpaste (had the idea from an ex colleague), showed it to the kiddo and told her to squeeze it.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Toothpaste oozed out." She replied.
"Do you know how this is similar to the words we say?" I prompted.
Yes, in a similar fashion, words cannot be retracted after we speak it so we must always be mindful.
Ironically, barely about a week after I spoke to her about this, both she and I had a not so pleasant experience with one of her classmates and her mum.
It started with a whats app message which I received at 8+pm that evening:
"Hi Alicia, can I check if XX (dumpling in this case) took a coin from YY abt 2 wks ago?"
So I asked the kiddo and my reply was that "... she says YY passed her the money and she didn't borrow".
To which the mum's reply was "I din mean she borrow. Is during Social Studies YY felt a coin in her own pocket and asked XX who's $ as she was sitting beside her. XX replied it's hers and so silly YY pass it to her."
So there was a bit of to and fro and to that end, my daughter said that it was not during Social Studies (SS) and she was not even seated next to this girl. So I felt that there were definitely some inconsistencies with the stories, her daughter and mine.
In the few paragraphs that ensued, I repeated that the kiddo did not ask or said that the money was hers. As it was a "money matter", I brought up the topic to the form teacher to ask for her assistance in investigating.
Discovery was that yes, my kiddo was not seated next to her kiddo during SS and no coin was shown to my kiddo and she did not borrow or ask or claim that the coin was hers.
Yes, Dumpling took a coin from YY but what transpired was this: it was the end of the day and my kiddo was stuffing her books and all, frantically into her bag. In the midst of these all, YY walked towards her and handed a coin to Dumpling. Rushing for time, Dumpling did not think much of it and just chucked everything in. She did not even remember about the incident till I asked her about it.
Of course, we had Dumpling return the coin to the child in the presence of the form teacher and it was a learning experience for Dumpling to be more careful and mindful of things that are handed over to her. So in short, it was a misunderstanding gone wrong.
Words - they carry such strong impact and can make or break someone's career, credibility and at times, even life.
In this particular instance, what I did not appreciate was the comment "I din mean she borrow."
As a mum and as an adult, I would think that we would know that children being children, may remember some details, yet not some while recounting stories. In the same way, some children are not good at retelling stories too. For me, I try to always give children the benefit of doubt, that they may have overlooked some details or misunderstood certain situations hence I asked Dumpling if she borrowed the money.
With that one remark from the mum, it seems to me that her belief was that Dumpling lied to say that the money was hers and took it. If she did not mean for Dumpling to borrow, then I cannot imagine what other options there can be.
As parents, what are we teaching them then? That it is OK to jump to conclusions and accuse? And are there things which we should also reflect and teach our children? Are we stepping in too quickly and at times, too blindly?
Humans are meant to make mistakes (just look at Adam!) as it is through them that we learn and we grow. Of course some mistakes can be dire and it is exactly for that reason that we should step back and learn to let the kids sort out the issues and conflicts on his/her own.
I would think that I am a fair person because if Dumpling were to be at fault, I do not sugar coat my words or allow her to hide behind me. I will usually reflect and think how we can use it as a learning instead. I have gotten her to own up to those mistakes, take responsibilities for them and apologise when necessary too. Earlier this year, the kiddo said some unkind words to one of her classmates, passing on some thoughtless and rude remark about her friend's mum. The mum texted me and I explained the situation to Dumpling and made her apologize to her classmate while I apologized to the mum. In another incident, she felt hurt by a close friend who suddenly stopped lunching with her and apparently passed a hurtful comment to her too.
If I were overprotective or have over-reacted, I would have approached the mum (of the latter incident) on the comment. Instead, I chose to retract my tiger claws and let Dumpling handle it - suggesting and guiding her to find the time to speak to her classmate on how she felt about both the remark and the loss of companionship.
Because by doing so, I wanted to let her learn to build up her social skills, understand how to regulate her emotions and manage conflicts. To also teach her values such as integrity, respect and responsibility. To let her have the space (and others too) to make mistakes and learn from them, to solve her own problems and yet through it all, to have kindness in her actions, intentions and in her words. It is of course, easier said than done but I believe that we are halfway there. In the meantime, I will continue to be a submarine parent, be real close but out of radar such that she learns these skills that will take her through life.