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Last week in my post I talked about how now, more than ever, using your intuition is key to healthy parenting. (To read the post, click here). I promised part 2 (this blog post) would center around sharing a recent parenting dilemma I experienced with my kids to illustrate the practice of learning to pause and incorporate self-care (in the form of twice daily 5-minute meditation) to navigate parenting (especially, adolescents) today.
What I am going to share is a situation I experienced over the past few weeks that I needed to clear up inside of me in order to be a healthier guide for my two youngest kids. This kind of thing happens all the time in the life of a parent and learning how to process our challenges (big and small) by pausing and responding, instead of reacting in the moment, is the most effective way to [mentally] reframe the situation for both ourselves, and our kids. The ability to do this provides the most optimal environment to build a strong relationship with our child while they are still under our roof, as well as once they’ve launched into the world. (I know this because I live it.)
So, here’s my story…
Several weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned in passing that she was going to be offering a 6-week public speaking program for middle-school age kids. The group would meet once a week for two hours, on Saturday afternoons. What a great idea I thought! I know how challenged I am by getting up in front of a group of people to speak, I love that she’s offering a way for kids to get more comfortable in a role that will pop up in their lives from time-to-time, whether it be in school, or at a banquet, or maybe a wedding toast, or even as part of a funeral service…whatever, it’s a great skill to learn more about and to practice. (Notice I have bolded the “I”s in this paragraph…that’s where my ego is coming into play).
Knowing my son and daughter (14 and 11, respectively) would not be excited about this program, I spoke first to Tom before bringing it up to the kids. He and I agreed it would be beneficial for them, not only for practical purposes, but because it would be somewhat uncomfortable (a reminder that we all have to do “hard” things at times), and would help balance out their screen time on Saturdays. So, together, we brought the idea to them over dinner.
My kids (maybe like yours…) pretty much blew us off initially, thinking if they took that approach we’d just sort of forget about it and move on knowing it’s the last way they’d like to spend their Saturday afternoons for six weeks. However, we had at least a handful of good reasons the class would benefit both of them, and we persevered when I reintroduced the topic at dinner a few nights later.
I explained why we felt the class would be beneficial (for the reasons stated above), I asked them to share their feelings and objections about the class. “I don’t have a problem speaking in front of others,” came out of my son, daughter admitted she didn’t like standing up and talking in front of others, but that a Saturday afternoon class would really eat into her social time with friends.
I validated their thoughts and feelings, and then Tom and I told them attending the class would not be an option. (Here is the sticking point for me, many of you know…if you read my blog on a regular basis, or if you know me in “the real world”, I am very much about giving my kids as much choice in life as I can. I think it helps them develop their own interests and allows them to feel as if they have some control over their lives as we support and guide them in the process of their emerging independence). I could feel their [anticipated and expected] resistance to being told the class wasn’t an option for them.
The trickiest part of parenting adolescents is learning when to step in, and when to bow out.
Not wanting to bring any “dominant-parenting-style” energy into the conversation (in the form of “You’ll go because we said so!” or “Listen, you are signed up and there will be no more discussion about it!”), the table talk went on to other topics (still unsure of our actual intent, the kids were ready and willing to move on).
I registered them for the class, knowing at the time they were “unwilling spirits.” (Parents do this all the time, right?)
Tom was out of town one night shortly thereafter, and I decided to talk to the kids about the class again, this time individually at bedtime, because the first class was just a few days away and I wanted both of them to understand I’d gone ahead and signed them up and would be dropping them off Saturday afternoon.
It helped to talk to them one-on-one at bedtime, they were both more open during those conversations. However, both were still adamantly opposed to the idea.
About this time my inner voice began to waiver…several things were going through my mind…did I sign them up for their sake, or mine? What would it look like to my friend if I didn’t actually follow through and send my kids to her class? How can I claim to be the mom who gives her kids choices, and then pushes them into this class against their will?
This went on in my mind…back and forth…me trying to figure out how to “right” myself with the situation at hand. The next night, Tom and I were walking the dogs after dinner and I told him I was unsettled about the reasoning behind the kids attending the class. I even admitted I felt guilty for signing them up. He said he had no guilt whatsoever. “Great,” I said, “How about you step in and talk to each one individually again, reassuring them (in your own way) they can navigate this class.”
That night, before bed, sitting quietly by myself…eyes closed, slowing my breath, staying quiet for a short time longer, just breathing in and out, I felt able to ask the question. I silently asked for clarity around my intentions about the speaking class and our kids. I just sat, quietly…and then began to feel a response form…it started with a warmth in my chest. What emerged was the answer which included my desire for all of us to continue to build inner strength by being honest about and facing uncomfortable situations in life. My intention is to do this myself, and to help my children be able to do the same. My attachment to the outcome was for the kids to show up and produce whatever they were capable of during the six sessions, what that looked like was totally up to them.
I realized when I focused on what my friend might think should I choose to pull them out at the last minute really had no bearing, what she might think one way or the other wasn’t my problem. Knowing the energy gained from my sitting and listening to my inner voice with intention around this specific situation, I felt strongly I could help my kids through the six week class without giving any energy to trying to control or dominate them in the process.
I opened my eyes.
Feeling much more settled about the situation, neither child said anything as, the next day, I announced it was time to leave for the first class. We drove the 10 minutes to the center without a word spoken, only music for our background. The three of us got out of the car and went in together, they were introduced to the instructor, and I was on my way home (for a nap).
When I picked them up a few hours later, they grumbled about the challenge of speaking in front of others. I listened, validated their feelings once again, and told them they had the week to work on the next session’s assignment. Grumbles at first, then acceptance because my resolve was in place they knew they would be seeing this through to the end.
They will continue to go, though it may not be their first choice, because they feel they have been heard, validated, they watch me and their dad to “hard” things and survive, and they have an innate desire within them to gain the same skills. They trust us with the decision that this class is one way they can do so.
We are constantly receiving messages, both from the chatter in our brains and from the external world, parenting specifically can be a role filled with anxiety…if you allow it to be.
My kids still trigger me at times, conscious parenting is a practice, but I know when it’s happening and I know how to work through it for the higher good of myself and our kids.
If you’d like some help doing the same, I would be happy to talk with you about the course I offer that can transform your parent/child relationships today; and those of your future grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well.
Prince Ea said it best in his recent video…
It’s been a busy time for our family. Two graduations, a moving on ceremony, Tom took a new job after twenty-six years with the same company, and our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary have made it quite the celebratory month!
The festivities started a few weeks ago with Allen-Michael’s graduation from college:
Then we had Mia’s “moving on ceremony”, and last, but never least…this past weekend was the third big gathering:
What a gift it has been to watch our kids continue to move forward on their paths!
I made several discoveries over the past few weeks of milestones with our kids.
First, I had to Google what “magna cum laude” meant, because it was next to Allen-Michael’s name in the graduation program. While he offered to share his grades with us once and a while during his college career, knowing Allen-Michael has an internal sense of working hard and living a life of service to others, it was never on my radar to spend a lot of time asking what his grades were. Obviously he was true to what we’ve learned about him over the years and he ended up doing a terrific job with his courses.
Second, I learned my daughter was involved in many more clubs and activities at school than I was aware of. Each of the 147 fifth graders were called out individually during her program…when they began the process I said to my mom, “I don’t know if Mia will have anything listed after her name.” Once again I was surprised to hear six “awards” called out.
Lastly, when we attended Brigham’s high school graduation last weekend, the principal mentioned the class of 832 students had earned over $31 million dollars in scholarships. The valedictorian and salutatorian (headed to Harvard and UT-Austin respectively) spoke largely of the academic, sport, and art achievements for the 2016 class. I found it sad, but not surprising. There was a young woman who spoke at the end of the ceremony (also in the Top 20 of the class) who mentioned connections with parents and friends…hers was the most emotionally connected speech of the day.
You might think from the above comments I neglect my kids day-to-day life because I don’t emphasize their academic achievements or their involvement in school programs. I realize I am in the minority of parents who truly believe their children will be successful in life no matter what their grades, or how busy they are kept. I work at my relationship with each of the kids so that it’s centered around guiding them to become who they are meant to be, and not about what I envision for/or expect of them, or that their inherent value lies in the grades they achieve.
Allen-Michael will return to work with NET (National Evangelical Team) out of St. Paul, Minnesota as a team supervisor starting next month. Brigham is coaching tennis and busing tables this summer to save money for books and tuition to Texas Tech, and Ms. Mia is determined to get an iPhone for middle school…which she plans to acquire by babysitting with her newly acquired Red Cross certification.
If I had to pinpoint what I find most “rewarding” (for lack of better phrasing) about raising our kids, it would be that while they are each wildly different and pursuing a variety of paths, when we get together each one respects the others’ choices (even if they don’t agree with them), and they all really enjoy one another’s company.
Here’s to a summer of transitions and new beginnings for all come fall!
A few weeks ago, I walked into our development’s amenities building to find, taped to each set of doors, a picture of four young people (I’d guess about 13 or 14-years-old) sitting on a bench inside of said building, under a caption which read,
“Reminder: do not let people without key cards into the building. These kids are responsible for some minor vandalism over the past weekend.”
Of course the first thing I did was look at the picture of the four youth to see if I knew them. I am sure anyone coming through the doors would have done the same thing.
I immediately thought to myself, as the parent of several kids (who have on occasion made unwise choices), would I want their picture plastered on the doorways in our amenities center? And if I did, why would I want that displayed?
Kids do things at times without thinking because their brains haven’t completely formed and they aren’t always able to anticipate the consequences of their actions.
This is not to make excuses for their behavior.
There is no question the kids involved should have had to clean up the mess they created, or at the very least, apologize to the maintenance person who had to waste their time and energy doing so. Whether or not they should have additional repercussions at home is up to their parents. I would think knowing they were caught on camera was somewhat embarrassing and might, in the future, help them think twice should a similar opportunity for misbehavior arise.
If not, there’s probably more going on in the child’s story than a cavalier attitude about vandalism.
Publicly shaming kids, whether it’s yelling at them in front of others while in a grocery store, calling them out on social media, or plastering their picture at multiple entrances to the amenities building, does nothing to foster a healthy relationship between adults and young people. Remembering we [adults] are the role models for kids in teaching accountability, rather than punishing, will do more to build responsible action in the future.
I happened to overhear one neighbor exclaim to another as I left the building a few minutes later, “The reason we’ve got these kinds of problems with kids today is because we don’t discipline them the way we did years ago while I was raising my kids.”
I beg to differ.
Much of the reason we see disrespect for property and/or people from kids nowadays is not because we have moved on from regularly physically punishing them, it’s because we (a) don’t often make the time to connect with our kids in a way that helps them understand we’re all part of, and working towards, something greater than ourselves, (b) kids are given too many “things” and privileges too soon, so they don’t place much value on the world around them, and (c) some parents would rather be a friend than a guide in life, so their kids don’t understand boundaries.
I think publicly shaming kids is a passive-aggressive, short-term solution which may temporarily provide compliance, but isn’t worth the long-term side effects, including loss of trust, respect, and connection.
I’m curious, what do you think about publicly shaming kids for their misdeeds?
*This article, with a few modifications, was recently published in The Cross Timbers Gazette.