Driving Lessons, Discipline & Tears

Driving & Tears
Photo credit: Lance Neilson

Over the last few weeks I’ve been having driving lessons. It would be safe to say that with a 6 month baby it’s been a challenge fitting this in in my current exhausted state but worthwhile nonetheless. But along with the joys of sleep deprivation comes heightened emotions and nearly sobbing in front of my driving instructor not once but twice! Well everything can be a lesson and through it here’s what I learnt about disciplining my son.

I love learning to drive and it’s overdue at this stage of life, so I’m working flippin’ hard to give it my all. Each lesson when we try a difficult manoeuvre my instructor will say ‘do you want to practice again?’ Of course the most immediately gratifying answer is ‘no’, lets stick to the things I’m best at, but every time I answer ‘yep, let’s try again.’

The last few weeks we have been practising reversing around corners. I don’t know why but for some reason I’ve really struggled to do it. Too far from the curb, too close, bumped the curb, forgot all the appropriate checks, managed to somehow weave my way back and forth across the road. Oh dear, oh dear.

My instructor is very gracious and encouraging but a couple of times when he corrected me after about the 7th attempt, I literally had to fight the strong urge to shed a few tears.

It’s not that I was really upset but I was annoyed. Annoyed at myself that I just couldn’t seem to perfect the manoeuvre how I might like. Frustrated that I was trying so hard and every time I received a gentle reprimand:

That wasn’t as it should be. Try again. Next time you need to do better!

Not put in those words of course, said in a much more encouraging tone. But that’s the message I hear myself when all I want to do is nail this thing and yet it’s STILL NOT RIGHT! When will I get it? How many times do I have to repeat this little thing? I’m trying so hard and I feel like I’m so far from where I want to be. Tears welling up and frustration rising, I’m just glad my instructor didn’t ask me to practice all the things I’m weakest at in one lesson. Glad he didn’t ask me to tackle too many of the hard things in one go. Didn’t have to reprimand me again and again and again.

Here’s the thing. My learning to drive is a lot like our children learning how to behave. I very much doubt most children want to behave badly just for the sake of it. I doubt they like getting it wrong. Who likes being reprimanded? Certainly not me.

I think sometimes as parents we can almost lose sight of their little hearts. We tell them the same thing seemingly again and again and they still don’t seem to get it. Our message to them is the same as my instructor’s message: “that wasn’t as it should be. Try again. Next time you can do better.” Nothing wrong with that message, it’s just another way of saying:

I believe in you. You can do this thing. I’ll help you get there. I’ll show you and tell you how

Call it discipline, or instruction, it’s necessary. Necessary for me in order to learn to drive and necessary for our children. But when they don’t do the thing we have asked, perhaps they don’t manage to, or can’t, or maybe sometimes for some reason deep down just don’t want to comply, we need to remember what it’s like when you feel like you’re failing. We need to encourage, show patience and remember that perhaps they are feeling frustrated with themselves, or crying because they’re trying really hard but it’s just not working… yet!

So when we’ve already had to remind them of the same thing 7 times over, lets encourage gently. Lets take a deep breath and remember their little hearts. Lets focus on one thing rather than all of those areas where perhaps more learning is required. Before we get frustrated, lets remember they’re probably just as frustrated with themselves.

Let’s remember their hearts

Remember they’re probably trying more than we know. And remember that sometimes it just takes time. And just as I’ve finally nailed the reversing around corners thing (phew), they’ll get it too.

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