Not sure if your kids struggle with this (I say with a sarcastic tone and smirky chuckle), but my gifted kiddos hate to be wrong. Let me add the correct emphasis: they absolutely abhor, detest, loathe, despise, HATE being wrong. So much so that they regularly fight tooth and nail to prove their wrong answer, even after they know that it’s wrong.
Let me give you an example. And, to be clear, this example has KBear as the shining star, but at any given moment of any given day, any of my 3 fringy kiddos could provide me with a brilliant example.
I had concocted this little photo scavenger hunt. The ultimate goal was to have organized fun while KBear was out of school (unscheduled days are difficult) and to reveal to the kids that we will be heading out East for the SEA Homeschooling Conference and extended family vacation in June (Come join us! for the conference . . . not our vacation). My ulterior motive was to teach them navigational skills, problem solving, team work, and sneak in a bit of other general knowledge stuff along the way. One of the photos they had to take was of a laundromat. Any laundromat. Cub knew where one was, but he didn’t know the exact location, so he typed the nearest street into the gps to get us as close as possible. Did I mention they had to give me step by step directions as I drove them to these different locations?
KBear was in charge of giving me the directions. When we got near to the laundromat, Cub pointed out and explained that the actual gps location was not going to be accurate and we had to look around for the laundromat. KBear agreed, but then adamantly refused to direct me to the laundromat when they found it. Her autism-y brain had her focused on the gps location and she steadfastly stated that she KNEW there was another laundromat up the road. She even admitted she understood that the gps wasn’t leading them directly to it, but she insisted that she’d seen a laundromat up there before. Cub, of course, would not back down either. The Boorman Civil War of 2017 was about to kick off. I quietly pulled into a parking lot and told everyone to sit without speaking. It worked. About 5 minutes later, Kbear gruffly and stubbornly growled, “Fine. Follow Cub’s directions. He’s always right.” That was the closest thing to acknowledging she was wrong that we were going to get. So, we took it, she took the photo of the laundromat, and we carried on with positive moods restored.
There are lots of reasons why our kiddos have difficulty admitting they’re wrong. But, lets focus on what we can do when we’re confronted with these situations when they stubbornly stick to their own (wrong) answer.
First – do NOT engage in a power struggle. Admittedly, I have been known to have trouble admitting when I’ve been wrong in the past, too. My impulse is to sink to their level and prove that I’m right. I’ve given into this impulse before. It ends badly. Take a breath, bite your tongue, reassure your inner smarty-pants that the truth will come out in the end and DO NOT ENGAGE.
Second – allow space. Sit quietly. Allow time for emotions to calm and thinking brains to kick back in. Whether 2 minutes is needed or 2 days, give your child the space they need.
Third – Allow a way out and a way to save face. It’s hard to change your tune after you’ve been humming a particular version for so long and with such zeal. Give your child a way out. I simply sat and waited until I was given directions. They didn’t have to decide who was right and who was wrong. I just needed to know where to go. She had an out.
Fourth – Let it slip away. Don’t make a big deal about it. Once truth-telling and reparations have occurred, just let it be. Your kid probably feels shame for being wrong. Pointing out their wrongness, would exacerbate that. Even pointing out how proud you were for acknowledging they were wrong could exacerbate that. Just let it go.
Most importantly – model an environment of making mistakes. Admit when you are wrong (I know. It’s shocking, but true . . . you are wrong sometimes, too!). Create a home where being wrong is simply a part of daily life. Notice when you are digging your own heels in and decide to take a breath and be more flexible. Set yourself up to be wrong. Learn new skills. Have your kids teach you something new. Set your kids up to be wrong and to fail. Repeatedly remind yourself and your family that it’s ok to be wrong.