But how often do we pay attention to what kids teach their parents? I’d like to share with you three important lessons I learned from each of my three sons.
I’ll begin with Danny, the youngest, who was a confident, self-assured kid from the day he was born. He knew what he liked, knew what he wanted, knew how to avoid being a victim. These were impressive traits to his mom, who grew up as a scared child, afraid to speak her mind.
One day, 4-year-old Danny’s antics were just too much for everyone in the family. After a fair amount of warnings, I decided it was time to take action. I pulled Danny down the hallway, then shoved him into his room. (Not my finest moment. I admit.) As I slammed the door behind him, I hissed, “Now you stay there!” Without missing a beat, Danny opened the door, slammed it in my face and shouted, “You can’t come in!”
As I walked away, I could only admire his moxie. Though I was powerful enough to make him stay in his room, I had no control over his personal power. Danny refused to be the victim. He reframed the situation, making it a punishment for me! Since then, reflecting on this incident has been my confidence booster in many a tough situation.
Glenn was only 15 when he applied for his first real job at a local pharmacy. When he returned home he said the interview went well. I, of course, was yearning for more details. He reluctantly complied. “They asked me whether I knew how to use a cash register. I told them yes.” “What,” I fired back. “How could you say ‘yes’ when you’ve never used one?” “Chill out, mom. When it’s time to use it, I’ll say that I’m not familiar with this model and they’ll show me how it works. No big deal.”
Glenn was right, of course. Not only about the cash register but more important, he taught his mom about the wisdom of taking risks and presenting yourself in the best possible light.
My oldest son Brian was 16 when he overheard his little brother asking me whether his friend could sleep over. Even though I told Danny yes, Brian was annoyed with him. As he ushered him out of the house, I overheard his big brother reprimand. “You don’t ask mom if Mitch can sleep over. You tell mom, ‘Mitch is sleeping over tonight, ok?’ And do it as you’re running out the door.”
Wow! I thought. So that’s how it’s done. How did these sons of mine learn at such a tender age about empowering tactics? I still don’t know the answer to that question. I do know that I am forever grateful to them for teaching me the skills, strategies and secrets of being a self-assured, self-confident, empowered human being.
Now let me share with you another story about a kid who also refused to be a victim. But her dad wasn’t savvy enough to be impressed by her smarts.
Walter was grouchy the day he picked up 7-year-old Amelia from soccer practice. Glancing in the rearview mirror, he noticed that Amelia had not buckled her seat belt. Walter barked, “Stop jumping around. Get that seat belt on. And sit still!”
Amelia complied. A few minutes later, however, he observed her sitting with arms folded and an impish look on her face. Walter demanded to know what was so funny. Amelia spit it out: “You can make me sit still, but I’m still jumpin’ around on the inside.”
Too bad Walter didn’t get it. Too bad he wasn’t impressed with how Amelia could comply and defy at the same time, creating one sensational solution. Instead, Walter was furious that Amelia had been disrespectful. Hence, she received a timeout for the transgression of “jumping around on the inside.”
Now, what about you? Is there a situation in which you think of yourself as the helpless victim when maybe, just maybe, you can view it another way? Before you immediately say “no way, this situation is different,” think of the wisest adult and the most creative child you know. Ask them what they think.