If you know a child in elementary school, chances are you are familiar with the color system as it relates to behavior. Most classes use some variation.
This year my daughter's class starts out with their cards on green. Green is good. Green means the teacher only has to remind them to stay in their seat once or to raise their hand. Green is what is expected from first-graders. If your behavior is less than green, then you flip your card to yellow which is a warning and small consequence and then blue which means a consequence and parents are called. Any worse is red which means a trip to the principal's office, a parent call and major consequences. Every day the students color the square on their calendar with what color then ended on. A parent has to sign the paper each night.
Last night as we drove home, I asked Munchkin if it was a green day. She said, "yes" (she's always been on green, or purple which is for extraordinary behavior) but then asked me what would happen if she ever came home with yellow, blue or red. I explained that those were not acceptable behaviors and that Daddy and I would have to discuss consequences. Munchkin became very quiet and said that she had been on yellow one time but by the end of day had earned back green. She further explained that the rule was no talking in the halls, but that day they had been told not to use a specific water fountain because it was broken. Her friend started to use that fountain and Munchkin told her not to use that one. The teacher caught her talking and put her on yellow.
I explained to Munchkin that I was glad she had earned back a green card. We all make mistakes or have accidents happen, but what is most important is learning from them. The fact that she re-gained green shows she learned from the incident. I asked her what she might do differently next time and she said tell the teacher the student was using the wrong fountain. Munchkin asked me if she would have gotten in trouble at home and I told her, "no." I explained that I thought she had been trying to help her friend and that her intentions were good. I praised her for thinking of her friend and then told her I thought it was a good idea next time to tell the teacher instead. I told her in that situation having to flip her card to yellow was consequence enough.
Munchkin got quiet and asked me who I would believe. I didn't understand and she said, "what if my teacher said something different. Who would you believe?"
-------- silence ------my thoughts ran wild ---------
Do I tell her I'd always believe her? I know kids stretch the truth sometimes. I know kids lie. I know kids try to cover up when they get in trouble. But I want to let her know I trust her and I believe her. But what if there is a time she tells a ridiculous lie? Remember that time in preschool when she was obviously lying and I knew the teacher's version was correct.
------- deep breath --------
I told Munchkin that I trusted her. I made sure she understood what trust meant. I told her that trust was a very important thing. I promised her that I would always want to find out from her what happened before I made a decision and that I would talk to her about what the teacher said. I told her it was important for her to always tell me the truth. I explained that just because a teacher flips her card to yellow doesn't mean the teacher didn't believe her. I ended by saying, "I love you and I believe in you. You can always tell me anything and I hope that you will always tell me the truth. I will love you no matter what you do and I trust that you will always try to do your best."
We pulled into the driveway then and we stopped talking. But I replayed the conversation over and over in my head. Did I say the right thing? Does she understand? What should I have said.
This parenting thing is not easy. Not at all. And not having had good role models makes it even harder. I'm thankful for good friends and moms of similar aged children (like Kim) who help me navigate through this journey.
What about you? Have any of you been in a similar situation? How have you handled it when you know your child isn't being fully honest about something but your child wants you to believe them over another adult?