The times someone has had to be the bearer of bad news to me…that one of my children had been less than angelic…I’ve been blessed enough that the tale teller was kind, graceful, and understanding.
But humble pie never tastes good.
Especially if you’re in my line of work…helping people parent.
But the absolute truth is this:
No matter our parenting style, dedication, or effort…our kids are gonna screw up. The only perfect kid walked on water and was crucified nearly 2000 years ago.
That being said, I won’t say I’ve always handled bad news perfectly but unfortunately I’ve had practice…so let me give you a few pointers from the vantage point of having been humbled more than once.
1. Assume the tale bearer has your child’s best interest at heart.
It never does us any good to automatically go into defensive mode. Sure there are those teachers, coaches and neighbors who just seem to have it out for our kid, but don’t let those experiences rob us of some valuable help and true status of our child’s moral compass.
2. Listen without defending.
This is hard, especially if we know our kids struggling with a lot or if there are underlying circumstances in our home like a recent job loss, difficulty in the marriage, or the loss of a loved one. We may know that your child is already in trouble for several other reasons and this report may feel like the straw that’s going to break the camel’s back…but it won’t. How do I know? Because you and I aren’t camels and we can take it. We have the strength of the Holy Spirit in us.
3. THANK THE TALE BEARER.
What they just did wasn’t easy. Confrontation never is. And maybe they didn’t handle it as well as yesterday’s post suggested, but ultimately they did us a favor. Let them know we are definitely one of those parents who WANTS to know. Hopefully we’ll get that kind of reputation and who knows what tragedies may be avoided because people know us to be the kind of parent who can take the truth and make something of it for our kids.
4. And apologize.
Apologize for the kid, even if at this point we’re not sure it’s true. It’s the civil thing to do and in any case we are always sorry when confrontation has to happen.
5. Retain the friendship.
It may seem difficult depending on just how bad the news is, but the person who has come to tell this bad news about our kid may just be the very best friend our family will ever have. They got real. They risked. They wanted to help us down this road…even if they didn’t handle it perfectly. As soon as we can, after we’ve dealt with the situation, reach out to this friend. A text, a phonecall, or even some sort of small note in the mail. Someone who will shoot straight is a rare find indeed, someone who will risk the confrontation and reveal something to us about our kids is even rarer. Keep this friend for sure.