02/08/2012 10:09 EST | Updated 04/09/2012 05:12 EDT

The Teachable Moment


When my son was in second grade, I bought him a cell phone because he was taking the school bus to school and I wanted to know he had gotten to his classroom safely. It was not a smartphone, just a regular phone. But, like most phones, it had a camera. About two weeks later, I received a phone call from the school saying a parent said he had taken a picture of one of the kids on the bus holding up the middle finger. My first reaction was to be angry at the parent that reported it to the school. I thought she should have come to me before making trouble for my son. But I put my anger aside and asked my son if he had done this. He denied it profusely. So, I picked up his phone to check the pictures and he immediately confessed. While the school did not feel the need to take action, I did. This was a teachable moment.

I asked the principal if I could bring him in. While she was not going to take disciplinary action, I asked her to go with me on this one. He nervously went with me to the principal's office crying on the way. I told him if he told the truth this would all be over. My sweet little eight-year-old boy walked in and told the principal what he had done. We spoke briefly with him and all was fine.

As a parent, my first instinct was to get mad at the parent who brought the bad behaviour to my attention. But then I realized killing the messenger was not the right course of action. Teaching my son a valuable lesson in appropriate conduct was.

Similarly, my friend's 11-year-old daughter was punched in the nose by a girl in her class last week. Apparently, she teased the girl about a boy and the girl hit her. While my friend reprimanded her daughter for teasing, the other girl's parents defended their daughter rather than making her apologize for giving her friend a bloody nose. Why did they feel their daughter was beyond reproach? After all, she did hit her in the face? Why didn't those parents see the opportunity to teach their child not to solve problems with her fists?

I think as parents we need to find the teachable moment in everything and not be so quick to get defensive. Nobody learns from being perfect. We learn by making mistakes and owning up to them. If you have ever come to your child's defense without hearing all the facts, you have made a mistake too. There are teachable moments in every situation. To be a better parent, your job is to look for them.