That’s not what I meant to say! (Lessons from the parenting files)

Do you ever wish you could have a do-over with something you’ve said or done? Like with your kids?

So, tonight, my daughter called me with a small problem. I had just gotten home from work (riding my bike, because my car is in the shop) and I was about ready to fix myself a plate of dinner.

She calls and says, “I’ve been working on a project at this choir rehearsal for the past 90 minutes and I just got out to my car and realized that I locked my keys in the car… and it’s been running.”


And then she added, “Can you bring my extra key and open the car for me?”

(She was about 15-20 minutes away, by car.)

So, I said, “Sure, sweetheart. Wow, you’re lucky your car was still there when you came out. Someone could have broken in and stolen it. And I’m not doing anything anyway, so I’ll be right there. Glad you called. No big deal. Sit tight.”

Oh, wait. That’s what I WISHED I had said.

What I actually said was, “Ohhhh, sweetheart! (groaning) HOW did that happen??”

I continued, “Alright, well do you have the AAA card I gave you? Call them and they’ll send a truck to unlock your car.”

Her: “Can’t you just come and help me?”

Me: “I could, but I don’t really want to drive across town. It will be faster for them to come out then it would for me to get out there.”

Her: “But what if I’m on hold and they can’t come right away?”

Me: “By the time I get out there, they could be there and gone.”

She finally agreed and hung up, her voice cracking as the emotions caught up with her and overwhelmed her.

I realized that I hadn’t been very sympathetic and had unintentionally scolded her. Obviously, in hindsight, she hadn’t done it on purpose. And now she was scared and alone and overwhelmed with this new situation in her young life and I had blown her off.

Even after being her dad for 20 years, I still mess up. Granted, I would have reacted a LOT differently when she was younger, but age and experience tends to soften the response. I’ve also learned a lot more about grace.

I called her back and apologized for scolding her, reassured her that everything was fine and it was no big deal, and I was on my way.

My take-aways when confronted with a child who is in the midst of a learning opportunity that may cause me an inconvenience:

  1. Take a deep breath–buy some time and assess the situation carefully before responding
  2. Assess the situation–she wasn’t in danger, she wasn’t hurt, she just made a mistake that was easily remedied
  3. Respond carefully–they will mirror your response, so if you respond hysterically, they will interpret it as a hysterical situation and respond likewise. Not necessary.
  4. Be gracious–everyone makes mistakes, even you. So there is no justification for throwing the first stone, especially at your own kid.

God is good. Kids are a gift. Treat them accordingly.

(PS–I’m speaking to myself here, too.)

For your advantage,


Have you ever responded inappropriately toward a mistake made by your spouse or one of your kids? Any tips you’d like to add to mine? Please share.


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