How To Be Wrong

This morning one of my daughters was wrong. Shocking, I know, but it happens from time to time.

Our girls have been learning some simple ASL (American Sign Language) through YouTube videos. Our four-year-old, Maeve, who can sing her ABCs but not identify most of the letters yet, has made it from A to C in ASL. As she was showing us the letter D, she was making the wrong shape with her hand.

Evely, our six-year-old corrected her, but Maeve was resistant. Evely offered to replay the video they watch- a little girl who teaches ASL to her mother and then signs and sings an off-key and slightly reggae version of the ABCs- in order to help her learn to shape her D correctly. Again, Maeve was resistant and starting to get a little upset at the idea that she was wrong. She insisted that she would continue to make the D her way.

This is where my wife and I differ as parents. My wife is more of a pacifier. She sees my daughter getting emotional and assures her that it’s not a big deal, she doesn’t have to learn the correct D right now if she doesn’t want to. I’m much less of a pacifying presence. I simply remind my daughter that it’s OK if she doesn’t learn it right now, but… she is doing it wrong and therefore technically is not making a D with her hand. I think it’s pretty clear how that went over. My daughter went into emotional lockdown, buried her face in her stuffed donkey, and only responded in grunts for a few moments.

This is parenting, this is educating, and unfortunately, this is what happens regardless of how you parent or what educational philosophy you follow. There are no right answers in homeschooling (or any schooling), and unfortunately, most of life comes down to these sorts of social interactions where it matters less who is right and matters more how you talk to someone who you think is wrong.

I recently read an article about how to handle relatives who believe in conspiracy theories. Most of the tips (be empathetic, don’t make them feel less intelligent or try to debate each minor point) made me feel like the perfect example of what not to do when confronted with disagreements in real life. It felt like the author watched footage of conversations I’d had, saw how completely unsuccessful I was, and took copious notes to bring back to the others. Empathy in place of condescension. Understanding in place of exasperation.

Whether it’s my daughter or my adult relatives, it’s important to learn how to be wrong. And I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about myself. Being ‘correct’ isn’t the same thing as being in the right. Sometimes we have to be wrong, because we very often are. Even on the off-chance that we did get all of our facts straight (which can also be unlikely), it’s more often the social interaction- and the relationship with those around us- that we don’t want to get wrong.

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