Children (and adults) often deny their own wrong, and sometimes transplant their errors on to others in blaming. They like to put the ‘wrong ticket’ on to another in order not to look at their own less-than-best behaviour…and this is natural. We almost teach this to them with phrases such as ‘you made me angry’ and ‘if you didn’t do that I wouldn’t have to shout’!!
Not many parents are good at ‘owning’ a wrong and sharing reasons for it. We tend to model ‘sorry’ as a gateway to get back to the world of feeling ‘right’ – leaving the wrong on the other side of the gate rather than returning with reflection and plans for how to manage better next time.
One of my students the other day said ‘right and wrong are like opposites’ and I said yes, but like fat and thin, there are many versions of each! I like to think of right and wrong as a continuum rather than polar opposites, line along which we can slide a little towards error and step up towards improvement. If there are only two categories, the fall from right to wrong seems huge and the climb from wrong to right can feel pretty intimidating too. A life of emotional snakes and ladders is effortful – all that climbing/striving and all that falling into disappointment and despair!
We can struggle with reaching ‘really right’ and often ‘nearly right’ is a good-enough thing to aim for. A little ‘less than right’ isn’t the same as a wrong, and much more encouraging to view. 'Somewhat right', 'a little bit right', even ‘ not quite right, but on the way’ is a more optimistic viewing.
Mistake – is like a miss-take….surely it is good to feel we can have another go? Sometimes it takes many misses before we hit the target of getting things right. Perseverance and practice are essential to learning and persisting through error towards improvement is vital for skill and knowledge acquisition. Parents who share their own moments of ‘less than right’ teach that this is an inevitable place to pause, for both young and old. No one reaches a totally mistake-free age!
I like the idea of recovering from wrong. This is not necessarily the idea of TRYING. Trying can be a way of simply repeating endless error patterns…without really looking at what is needed to make the difference between getting things truly right, and not quite right. TRYING involves more effort but not always more thinking. Observation of the ‘wrong’ is helpful, but needs to be done without judgment and with real sense of compassion for ourselves living with challenges.
Recovering from wrong is more about being willing to try new pathways towards success…ones that are silly, new, creative…ones that use courage and patience and inner qualities – as much as outer ‘doingness’. Recovering from wrong can be the simple decision to let go of the feeling of error, and hold on to the learning. It can also be balancing the mistake against the abilities. It can be as easy as deciding to say ‘yes’ to error as part of our human pathway.
Families who recover well build relationships – acknowledging all those things that take us into ‘wrong’….frustrations and expectations, fears and failures….and working WITH them. Elimination of these within a home is virtually impossible, and embracing them with hope and humanity is a better option.