oops. my mistake.

Mistakes. It’s not that I like them, but I’m comfortable with them–because I make them. So when a mom asked me at a talk a few weeks ago how to approach changing family rules, I knew the answer.

Start with the mistake. Yours. Or, in the case of this morning, mine.

Last week was looooonnnngg. There was a lot happening. I was distracted. Preoccupied. And when our son pushed the media boundary in the morning, I let it slide. Once. Twice. Thrice. Okay, let’s be honest. Five times. The rule is clear. Crisp. Easy to follow. No media in the mornings.

The rule is the rule! (Except when it isn’t.)

And not enforcing it five days in a row? Without saying a word, I had shouted a change. At least, that was clear in his mind.

In mine? With each passing day I fumed just a little bit more. He knows the rule. He knows it! How hard is it to follow expectations…But instead of having the conversation aloud with him, I kept having it by myself it in my head.

I hadn’t wanted to engage in conflict. There was too much else going on. But what would have been mild a week ago became incendiary this morning. When I should have owned my mistake, I pushed it on him. Onto a teenager, whose full-time job is to question authority.

“You know our rule about media.” Said in mom-tone.


I don’t know what I was thinking. That’s not true. I know exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking and hoping that this was one of those rules I could finally stop enforcing because it had simply become habit. An expectation he had internalized. One that had become his own (like the toilet paper or the dishes).

Clearly, it had not.

And so, it is my job to reestablish it. But not by going on the attack. Instead, I should have tried what I think of as the sorry sandwich. It has three layers.

  • Sorry for my part
  • The expectation (re)iterated
  • Thank you for your cooperation

Had I been wise this morning, I would have said this “I’m sorry I let things slide last week. That gave you mixed messages about media in the mornings. Our rule still holds. Thanks for remembering it.”

And it would have worked.

Why am I so sure? Because of his response this morning. He wasn’t mad that I was telling him to get off the computer. He was angry that I wasn’t consistent. “I’ve been watching videos for a week and YOU NEVER SAID A THING!”

The sorry sandwich. That’s it. A quick, gentle reminder serves us so much better than an accusation or a ten-minute diatribe. (trust me, I’ve tried both).

So when you need to change course for your child? Begin with yourself. It might sound like “woah. I gave you responsibilities way beyond your age abilities. Sorry about that.” Or “oops. I had no idea those apps had minimum ages.” Or even “Parenting foul. My bad.” Or “Mama made a mistake…”

When we start with us, it relaxes them. No blame. No shame. Instead, we stay connected. And that means the learning happens faster. Which we want, right?

Owning our part says to our child “I’m in this with you.” It keeps us on their side. Which we are. Always.


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When you next make a mistake–today, tomorrow, next week, next year–try the sorry sandwich. Then let me know how it goes. We all have a story, I’d love to hear yours.


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