"It was nearly 19 years ago when my husband and I were first married that he gave me a music box with three glass figurines on it," says Myria. "We were poverty stricken at the time and I greatly treasured that music box, which played `Let me call you sweetheart.' The music box sat on edge of the coffee table until one day my toddler picked up the box and broke one of the figurines. I shouldn't have left the box there, of course, but I didn't think of that at the time. I was so furious I spanked my son until his bottom turned red.
Afterwards I felt so bad I vowed I would never do that to him again. From that day forward I resolved to build his self-confidence and protect him from my anger. I put the broken music box in the bottom drawer of my chest where it has remained these last 19 years. Every time I have opened that drawer it has reminded me of my resolve not to hurt him."
Let people make mistakes. In this instance, Myria vowed to release her son from being perfect and acquired the attitude of letting him make mistakes - without harsh psychological costs.
Letting other people make mistakes without penalty is perhaps one of the most difficult attributes for humans to assume. At the heart of our problem is that we assume other people can or should be perfect - and perfect means doing things our way.
There are, of course, no perfect 10s - no people in our space who have their acts together.
Nor should people have to be perfect. Everyone needs the right to be wrong and the right to grow from his or her mistakes - without others emphasizing the mistake with fingerpointing. Remember that, unfortunately, other people beat themselves up so severely inside when they feel they've made a mistake, they don't need your help in highlighting the error.
Allow people to be inconvenient. Releasing people from having to be perfect at times means releasing them from being convenient. The acid test for such a release results when something of value to you is at stake - perhaps an object, or your time, your attention, or your schedule.
Ruth's "test" came when she was making a double batch of waffles with her 8-year-old daughter one Sunday morning and her daughter grabbed the bowl of batter out of her hands to place it by the waffle iron.
Up in the air went the bowl and down came the batter, spattering all over the kitchen.
Seeing her daughter's tears and broken heart, Ruth stopped herself from the scolding that was on the tip of her tongue. Catching her breath, she said quietly, "It was just an accident." And then with a note of glee in her voice, she said in front of her husband: "Don't worry about it, honey. Daddy will clean up the mess and you and I will make another batch of waffles."
Ruth remembered something else at that point - the lemon meringue pie she turned upside years ago when she had "tried" to help her own mother. Her daughter had done nothing more than make the same kind of mistake Ruth made when she was young.
Take a "no-fault" view. Viewing negative events as accidents is difficult because we tend to see them through a "blame" framework.
Said one struggling mother: "Inside I feel someone has to be at fault. If my child spills his milk, it is not an accident. I gave him too big a glass or it was too close to the edge of the table or I should have foreseen the problem and moved the glass. Or, my child is a klutz and spilled his milk so I am going to send him to his room."
Negative events do happen and people do have responsibility for their respective parts in those events. But there is a difference between "responsibility" and "fault."
Most people do not go out of their way to cause "accidents" or "mistakes." Nor do they deliberately behave in ways to make other people angry.
If you look closely and you "search" for the cause, you will see a person who is hurt, or preoccupied, or perhaps uninformed - not a person who is intentionally trying to make your life miserable. Or you may see a person who is just in the business of being himself, even if it is irrating to you.
Consider the fragile egos of others. As you consider giving others more latitude, think about them as living, vulnerable human beings who have the same inner insecurities and tender feelings as perhaps you have and hide so well from the world. Protect them from the wounding you can inflict.
"I didn't think about what I was doing when I screamed at my 4-year-old for washing down the shower walls with a bottle of expensive shampoo until I saw the intense fear and pain on her face," said one mother. "Then I realized what I was doing to the daughter I loved so dearly - I was tearing her apart for the price of a bottle of shampoo."