When Apologies Go Wrong

image Most days I am a mediocre parent at best. Then from time to time I have flashes of brilliance. Times when I find a teachable moment and seize on it. But sometimes those moments don’t go quite as planned.

Every day in Lily’s backpack there is a timed math test. Apparently they do one every day and when they complete so many addition problems in a certain amount of time they move on to the next level. Lily had been steadily moving up the levels every day, but I noticed that she was stuck for a few days on level M. So when she came home with her level M test and had passed, I made a big deal out of it. She was excited too and her eyes sparkled with the praise.

But she whispered to my mom later that she had done a few problems before the teacher said to start. Ugh. The annoying thing is, she had passed the test by way more than the two problems she did early. So she “technically” earned the next level. But I knew we had to address the cheating. So the hubby and I talked and decided that she needed to come clean to her teacher.

So the next day when the hubby went to pick her up from school, he helped her approach the teacher and confess. She handled it awesome and totally admitted what she had done and that it was wrong. We were so proud of her!!

Her teacher totally killed our plan!! She told Lily it was no big deal. She knows a lot of the kids start a little early and at this point it isn’t a big deal. WHAT?? Apparently the “start time” isn’t as definite as we understood. And the rules aren’t as strict. But come on!! Help a mother out!!! She did tell Lily how happy she was that she had told her, but dang. I was hoping for some serious consequences. Well, not really serious, but at least something to scare her into not cheating again. I am hoping I don’t look back on this one day as the beginning of her entry into a life of crime.

That was my best shot at the “Mother of the Year” award too. Another year down the tubes….


  1. As a teacher, I can see her perspective. You don’t want to make the child feel worse and it can be really, really awkward to assign consequences in front of parents, because you feel like you’re overstepping boundaries.
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  2. I’ve had my kids apologize to people before (for things that were a big deal — at least according to our family value system) and had them do the “oh, that’s okay, it’s not a big deal” response. It’s so frustrating. I know their intentions are good — that they don’t want my kids to feel bad — or perhaps they’re just uncomfortable with the situation, but it really feels like it waters down the values lesson and makes it seem like I’m “overreacting.” But in our house — like yours, it sounds like — taking responsibility for your mistakes and being honest is important. I don’t want people to make my kids feel bad, but I do wish they’d acknowledge that the apology is for something that was wrong.

    I still think you can count this as a mother of the year entry. :-)

  3. Oh, that’s so frustrating!
    This just occurred to me… but perhaps if you ever have a situation like this in the future you should give the adult a head’s up as to what you might like them to do… I’m going to keep that in mind for myself because I know I would tend to see a child’s errors and give them a lighter pass if they weren’t my kid too… :)

  4. We had this happen once when our 7 year old stole some cute $.50 items from a local store. I took her back to the store and made her apologize and return the items. On the way there, she was asking what they were going to do, “Do you think they’ll call the cops?”

    I answered in a grave voice, “I’m not sure. We’ll just have to deal with whatever comes.” Maybe that was cruel, but 15 minutes of fright would be good for her.

    When we got there, the store manager basically said it was ‘sweet’ of her to bring things back, but it really wasn’t THAT big of a deal.

    Ugh!!! I wanted to grab him by the throat and explain that I was trying to teach a life lesson here and he wasn’t helping. But, then they probably would have called the cops.

    I feel your pain!
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  5. Now, c’mon, teacher! How did your daughter react to her teacher’s response? Was she still sorry? Or did she have an “I knew it wasn’t a big deal” attitude? I still think you did the right thing. Krista’s idea about giving the adult a head’s up sounds good, if it’s feasible. (Although here’s hoping there won’t be a next time!)
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  6. Janice says:

    I think there comes a time in your child’s life that they will find out other people’s value system is not as strict in some areas as what you are teaching your child. That’s ok, and you need not feel like a failure. Be sure that your child knows this is what is expected in YOUR family! I sometimes need to tell my son that there are times when others will use words/do things that we don’t want our children to do. So it’s ok to tell your daughter that you expect her to start on her sheet at starting time. She will not become a criminal if you are consistant with what you expect of her! :)

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