After a day of bickering, I sat down with my boys and told them we were going to start a new family tradition. I explained, “Every night, before getting ready for bed, we’re going to sit down and make an “I wish you were sorry for” statement to each other.”
They were confused. So I started with an example.
I said, “Matt, I wish you were sorry for dumping all of your stuff at the door when you walked in after basketball.”
“Oh,” he said. “I get it. Chad, I wish you were sorry for hiding the batteries for the controllers because you were mad.”
Chad added, “Matt, I wish you were sorry for changing the settings on my phone to Spanish.”
Matt replied, “That was supposed to be a joke and it’s not that hard to fix.”
I needed to make a clarification. “Boys, you’re not allowed to defend yourself. You don’t have to feel sorry either. All you have to do is acknowledge the statement.”
Matt said, “Ok. Mom, I wish you were sorry for lecturing me so long when Chad and I were fighting. I get it with a lot less words than you think.”
Chad added, “And Mom, I wish you were sorry for not taking us to DQ when you promised.”
I said, “I am sorry for both of those things guys, and no matter what kind of day we’ve had, I want you to remember that you will always be brothers and we will always be family. I just want us to pay closer attention to how we make each other feel and remember that we love each other. Now go brush your teeth.”
Chad jumped in with, “But Mom, what about me? What do you wish I was sorry for?”
“Oh yeah,” I said, thinking. “Chad, I wish you were sorry for not bringing your laundry down.”
He said, “I am,” and gave me a hug.
We’ve continued our new tradition long enough for me to realize how often I used to bait and switch with my boys, usually for my own convenience. When I did that, I made them feel like they’re not important. I’m learning how significant the little things are to their self-esteem and to our relationship. I started the exercise in hopes of helping them understand each other better but truthfully, I think it’s made me a better parent.
Now they look forward to the conversation. Sometimes they can’t wait because they’ve been saving something since morning and other times they just say it was a great day and they wouldn’t change a thing. Try it out on your kids. You might be surprised what you learn.