This perfect Easter turned personal therapy session was sent in by Jules, who has a 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Incidentally, we have a couple more doozies from her in the hopper, so be prepared.
Easter Sunday was a big day for our little family, especially considering the fact that we are not religious and don’t actually know any people who go to church more than twice a year. Our secularism notwithstanding, the kids got up really early to see if the Easter Bunny had come and left them any gifts or candy. I hastily made a couple of desserts for the parties we were invited to that day, and by 9:30 a.m. we were off to Easter Brunch with friends 30 minutes away on the other side of town. There were several families there, a bunch of kids, lots of food, laughter, Easter candy, champagne for the grown-ups (fueling some of the laughter, I suppose), and lots of outdoor play and adventures for the mob of kids. At about 3:00, we packed up and drove to another Easter dinner celebration with other friends 40 minutes away on the north side of town. Another fun party with with several families, a pack of kids, lots of food, laughter, and outdoor play for the kids.
Needless to say, my two children were exhausted when we finally got home at 8:00 that night. But I was very pleased — they were very well behaved all day. No meltdowns, they followed the rules, were generally polite to the adults.
But right before sending my 9-year-old son to bed, I pulled him aside and said, “I’d like to give you some feedback about your behavior today. I was very proud of how you behaved all day. It was a big day, there were lots of kids around, and a lot of stimulation. But you behaved very well all day. It appeared that you played well with the other kids, with give and take and interaction. You were polite to the adults. And it was a real pleasure to interact with you today.”
Him: “OK, thanks. But what about the feedback?”
Me: “That was the feedback.”
Him: “But when you give me feedback, you tell me something I did wrong or that I need to change.”
Me: Gasp. Gulp. Internal dialog — I hope I haven’t completely ruined your self-image and your trust in me by acting like bad assistant manager at Foot Locker at the mall. “Well, I guess I need to give you more feedback when you do things that you’re doing well.”
The sad thing is that I manage 11 people at work; I’ve been managing people for almost 10 years. And I would never make that mistake with my work people. But at home I’m acting like a first-year supervisor.
Fortunately, it appears that my son knows the power of an effective question as a means of giving me great feedback. Now, if I can only respond to it.