“Whoa! What are you doing?” I asked, aghast.
I had just walked into my daughter’s room as she was working on a science project.
Normally, I would have been pleased at such a sight.
But this time, her project involved sand.
A lot of it.
And, while she had put some plastic underneath her work area, it wasn’t nearly enough.
The sand was spreading all over our newly renovated floors.
My daughter, who immediately felt my displeasure, began to defend herself.
“I used plastic!” she responded angrily.
I responded more angrily, “But the sand is getting all over!”
“Where else am I supposed to do it?” she yelled.
Why won’t she admit when she’s done something wrong?
I thought to myself.
I felt my fear, projecting into the future: What would her life look like if she couldn’t own her mistakes?
My fear translated into more anger, this time about how important it was for her to admit mistakes, and we spiraled.
She said something that felt disrespectful to me and I raised my voice.
She devolved into a crying fit.
I wish I could say this never happened before.
But my daughter and I were in a dance, one we have, unfortunately, danced before. And it’s predictably painful; we both, inevitably, end up feeling terrible.
This is not just a parenting dance.
I often see leaders and managers fall into predictable spirals with their employees.