Family Feedback Peek-a-boo—To Mom, be clear. To child, be humble

Family dinner“A TABLE!”  That’s French for “Time to eat. Kids, come NOW! Prepare your taste buds and your conversation skills…”

On December 31 the family was dispersed in six different parties.  On January 1, we all sat down for a meal together…and shared feedback on 2013 and insights for growing forward.  We call thisThe Family Annual Review.

We do this every year and it is AN AMAZING family moment that the children request year after year.  Read here for the “How To’s.”

Friends (who also are parents) exclaim, “What a great idea….but I’d be so scared.”  We’re giving you The Run Down so that you can get a feel for how it happens…and do it chez you too!

Since we have four sons, we’ve given each one a full post.  Keep clicking to the next post!  Each child is different (don’t you KNOW!) so you catch a different aspect of the exchange from each one.

Executive Summary

In essence, our eldest son asked me to be more clear about finances and who pays what.  My growth challenge to him centers on learning through humility.

The Run Down

Mom, sometime between the green beens and the cheese (meals chez nous are served in courses.  We’re American AND French!): “Hey guys, let’s do the review.  Who wants to give me feedback?”

Silence.

Mom: “Son 1 (of course I used his name, probably preceded by a ‘honey’), why don’t you start.  What is one thing I have done well this past year?”

Son 1 (19 years old.  Junior in college):  “I know I’m only supposed to say one thing, but here are two.  You have been very welcoming of my girlfriend coming to stay at our home (she stays i the guest room).  You’re becoming more flexible.  You have also been kind in driving me back and forth to school (he comes home some weekends and usually takes public transportation…which takes 1 hr while, at no-traffic times, the car takes 20 minutes) on some short notices.  Thanks.”

Mom:  “I’m glad we have been able to coordinate schedules so that we can do those runs outside of rush-hour.”

Son 1:  “…and to change, two things too! (meek grin)  First, consider letting my girlfriend and I sleep in the same bed at home.  And second, you’re not clear with the financial budget.  When I come to you with exceptional expenses (contact lenses, pharmacy purchases…) you say those are in the budget, but when I worked out finances with Dad we did not include funds for that.  So, I feel like I’m paying for too much.”

Mom:  “About the girlfriend, I hear you.  You know that we have different perspectives on this and I’m not willing to change (yet?).  So what is the budget exactly?…. (Discussion to clarify)…well, let’s get that written down and put it in The Binder (THE PLACE where we store family ‘contracts’, kids’ friends’ phone numbers, forms we’ll need in two months and  wonder where to keep in the meantime…)

For reimbursements, talk to me like you do with receipts.  You usually do so when my hands are full of soap suds from the dishes…so I’ll put Post-It notes in the kitchen drawer on which you can write an IOU and stick it on top of the stove.  That way I’ll remember to pay you back.”

Son 1:  “Thank you.”

Raclette family mealMom:  “My turn for feedback to you.”  (Yes, all the other boys are listening…and eating.  We get a few ‘Pass the _______’ as we’re going along.)

“What you have done that is really great is to develop a relationship of confidence with your Chinese tutor.  (He helps a Chinese student with French and English…and with cultural adaptation.)  From time to time you tell us of his surprised (horror-stricken) reactions to events at school.  The entire family has benefited from your sharing those insights.  And what it shows about you, is that you have been able to secure his trust so that he can express both positive and negative observations with confidence. That’s GREAT.”

Son 1: “Yeah, it’s been interesting for me too.  Thanks.”

Mom:  “Regarding growth for next year, be humble.  You’ll be studying in Asia for 6 months. Life doesn’t happen the same way there as it does in Paris.  We French are known for being aggressive and arrogant…and you have exhibited those attitudes in the past.  Being humble means purposefully listening and learning.  Be like a sponge:  take in before squeezing out.”

Son 1:  “I hear you.”

That’s good enough…it’s even wonderful!

NEXT SON…

In this series:  Family Annual Review Peek-a-boo

Enjoy the whole shebang!

  1. To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.

Family Annual Review How To’s

Family Feedback Peek-a-boo—2

Family Feedback over mealWe’re on a roll with the Family Feedback.  Our eldest son has given and received his insights (read here) for the Family Feedback.  We’re sitting around the dinner table and our third son is next to him.

Perfecting Process

(In a teensy bit of a controlling style) I turn to our second eldest son.

Mom:  “What is your feedback for me?”

Purposefully, I did NOT ask, “Do you have____?”  Our purpose with this discussion is to create an environment where our children voice a compliment and a concern.  We’re going beyond “Yes” and “No” mutterings.  (Read here for Family Feedback How To’s and free download)

Son 2:  “Oh, we’re going this way?  By age?”

Mom, interpreting the question as a gentle invitation to allow the kids to take the lead:  “We don’t have to. Who wants to go next?”

The Run Down

Son 3 pipes up, “I’ll go.  Mom, you have been nice about getting special school supplies for me.  Sometimes I’ve run out of _______ or needed a specific book or _______ and it meant going to a specialty store to find it.  I appreciate your effort.  Thanks.”

Mom smiles…lips and eyes.

Son:  “And Mom, you have GOT TO BE more flexible with my going out at night.  I don’t want to have to give you a fixed phone number AND address AND friends’ names AND time I come home before you let me go out.”

Older brothers:  “Aaagh, we hated that too!”  “Now it’s your turn!”

Mom:  “Do you know why I ask for those?”

Son:  “Yeah, my older brothers messed up so now you’re tough on me.”

Mom repeats:  “Do you know why I ask those things?”

Son 3 grunts.

Mom:  “When you give your friend’s mobile number, they don’t answer.  There have been times when we found out that you boys were not where you said you were, so I like to have a number to call just in case.”

Son:  “The phone number is the worst thing.”

Mom:  “We had dinner with friends last night who, for sleepovers, systematically call beforehand to check that their sons are expected.”

Son 3:  “Don’t do that!”

Mom:  “And I ask about where they are and getting home so that you can work out public transportation and return on time.  ‘I missed the last train’ is not a valid excuse for being late…”

Dad:  “STOP the bickering!”

Brothers:  “Yeah, work this out the two of you.”

Mom:  “OK, honey.  Make me a proposal for a different way to get permission to go out.  Let’s talk more over something concrete.

My turn?”

Family Feedback over mealBrothers:  “Yeah, let’s move on.”

Mom:  “You have shown us your ability to be responsible. Admittedly your teachers are writing that you are insolent in class 🙁 and lacking in maturity. Yet over this vacation and through your job (as a high school freshman, he’s tutoring a French boy in English) you have demonstrated to us your leadership skills, positive initiatives, and commitment to completing your responsibilities well.  When you want to, you excel in maturity.

Here is what you can change. Have an optimistic view of you and your future.

You state these outlandish goals for yourself:  king of the world! You know these are unattainable (undesirable?) and I wonder if you say these things out of lack of confidence?…I don’t know.  No one expects you to reach them, so no one will consider you a failure if you don’t.

(“Pass the cheese, please,” someone requests…and we keep talking.)

What you can change is to think of how you can be a success…you choose the realm.  You are WAY MORE LIKELY to fulfill your dreams one step at a time than through a miraculous leap.   Break down your mega-perfectionist goals into smaller tasks…and you might even surprise yourself by how much you accomplish…and then you’ll have the courage to really dream big AND realistic.”

Son:  “Yeah…”

Mom:  “You have soooo much potential, darling.  You know that, don’t you?”

Son:  “I know.”

Brothers:  “Let’s pick up the rhythm.  Next!”

No room for mommy sentimentality!

NEXT SON…

 

In this series:  Family Feedback Peek-a-boo

Enjoy the whole shebang!

  1. To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.

Family Feedback How To’s

Family Feedback Peek-a-boo—To Mom, stop being a fashion victim. To child, think before you speak






Family Feedback over meal

Two of our sons have already given (to parent) and received (from Mom) feedback about what each does well and should continue doing, and about one behavior to consider changing. (Catch the beginning of the discussion here).

Business Continues As Usual

We’re at the dinner table, getting close to dessert time, and it’s the turn of youngest of four sons.   The meal keeps on flowing throughout the exchange.

Mom:  “Darling, what would you like to tell me about what I do well and what I should think about changing?”

Son (12 years old):  “Well, like, you know…”

Brothers:  “No we don’t.  Be specific.”  It’s said with both a touch of impatience and sense of humor.

The Run Down

Son:  “Well, like, you’re more flexible…”

Mom:  “Flexible seems to be a key theme tonight…or last year!  What do you mean, exactly?”

Son, after some more humming and hawing and searching for words and being teased by his siblings:“It’s like you can laugh more at yourself. “

Mom:  “Thank you.  And what about something where you want to see me change?”

Son:  “Well, like, you know…”

Brothers:  “No.  We don’t.  Move on.”

Mom:  “I’ll give you some feedback about what you do really well.  I’m so impressed by your insights into people.  Sometimes you’ll come home from school and describe a situation and comment about how that reveals the person’s character.  Wow.  You are making connections between what people think and how they behave.  It’s impressive.”

Son:  Shy smile.

Mom, quickly so that the older ones don’t break the positive momentum with a questionable comment: “What you can do to change is to think before you speak.”

Guffaws in agreement from the boys.

“Sometimes you call my name, I answer, and you reply, ‘Nothing.’   It doesn’t happen just once…and we’ve already talked about it and you’re better not doing this as often.  Yet now, you regularly react to your brothers by insulting them slightly.  Not surprisingly, they respond.  Then you reply, ‘Just joking.’”

Boys:  “Yeah, you do it all the time… It sounds stupid.  Either mean what you say or don’t.  Dig, dude?”

Mom, talking right at Son 4 without paying attention to the siblings:  “You don’t have to defend yourself, darling.  If you think before you speak, you’ll avoid many slippery slopes.”

Dessert time = Hungry for closing time.  Read here for our final exchange on the 2013 Family Annual Review.

AND YET…

My youngest son and I had not finished this conversation.  So, the next afternoon, when the older boys were not around, I approached him again.

Mom:  “I did not quite understand your feedback yesterday.  Could you please tell me again what I do well and what I should think about changing?”

Son:  “Mom, you are more flexible now.  Before you used to be too intense.  Now you can laugh at yourself.”

Mom:  “Can you give me an example?”

Son:  “Remember when (and he recalled a time when a friend of his described me as the ‘old lady’) Well, I remember not being embarrassed because you did not lecture him.  (Was I THAT bad?!)  Instead you laughed.”

Mom:  “Thanks, darling.  Now, what should I think about changing?”

Son 4:  “Don’t be such a fashion victim.”

Mom:  “ME!”  (Are you kidding? My humble self thinks, “I make fashion; I don’t follow it.”) “Please, give me an example.”

Son:  “Your nails.  Stop wearing blue and green nail polish.  (This past spring and summer, I adorned my fingertips in turquoise and spring green.  In early fall, I opted for navy on my hands and a deep green metallic hue on the toes.)

“It’s just not you, Mom.”  (When the kids were small, manicures were UNIMAGINABLE.  I barely got to shave one leg at a time. So, this nail craze is new.)

Mom:  “Thanks for letting me know.  I see what you mean. I’ll think about it.”

I probably will give it up…and present him with my orange fingertips telling him how I hesitated on the purple and pink stripes but followed his advice instead.

Little bother for me.  ‘Lotta meaning for him.

Surprise party for mom

NEXT SON…

In this series:  Family Annual Review Peek-a-boo

Enjoy the whole shebang!

  1. To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.

Family Annual Review How To’s

Family Feedback Peek-a-boo—To Mom, be more generous. To child, learn through a job.

We are coming to a close of our Family Feedback of 2013. One son remains to give and receive his feedback with his parents.  This is the fourth in the series of posts to give you a glimpse into one our most precious and powerful family moments.

Click here for our How To’s.

Read on to learn how my son told me to be more generous and I encouraged him to grow by working simple jobs of manual labor or service.

We are seated at the dinner table and the boys chose to go around in the order of seating. It’s our second son who finally got the floor.

Son (17 years):  “Mom, what I really appreciate is your flexibility with letting me spend time (like the night) with my girlfriend.”

This is a very delicate issue between us because his behavior is in contradiction with my values.  Yet, you see, my job as a parent is to provide him with an education and to present him with a set of values.  He graduated from high school this summer and now lives out of our home.  My role as a mother has evolved now:   to allow my son to fly with his own wings.   I did my BEST while he was under our roof.   It is his life, not mine.  I have made mistakes and learned some of my best lessons from them. He too will blunder.  He might choose some or none of my values for his life.  He will live with the consequences of those choices.

With regards to my life and beliefs, I try to follow Jesus Christ.   Try.  Because invariably I fail. But  Jesus loves me.  Still.  So, if I follow Christ, I am to love.  Still.  And loving my son now means to be “less of me and more of him.”

Mom:  “I’m glad you appreciate it.”

Son: “I really don’t have a way where you could change…”

This is our son who has complained and COMPLAINED about …everything and anything.  He’s an expert at finding faults (and over the years he’s also learned to identify and encourage others’ strengths).

Son: “…ah yes.  You didn’t do it this year for Christmas, but sometimes you offer people the gifts you would like to receive.”

Mom:  “What do you mean, exactly?”

Son: “Last year you gave everyone kitchen tools.  The ceramic knife, the knife holder, the latest fashion cookbook…you used them all.”

Embarrassingly, this is all true!

Mom:  “I see (all too clearly) what you mean.”

Son:  “Ok, what about me?”

Mom: “What you have done excellently last year is master your schoolwork.  You graduated with honors. Intelligence contributes to these results, but you also worked for those grades.  You exhibited discipline and determination…along with balance in your social and spiritual dimensions of life.  And it was not just last year.  This year your academic demands are even heftier and you’re at the top of your class and keeping up with a life.”

Dad:  “You’re ranked N°1 in your class?”

Son: “Didn’t you know?”

Banter between son and father where the younger bull gets to show off his size and the senior one grunts his consent.

Mom:  “And what you could do to change is considering getting a job.  Try working for money.  The jobs you’ll have at your age are mostly entry level manual labor or service positions.  It’s a good thing to know first-hand the value of sweat and smile.”

Son: “I’ve thought of that.  But you see, I don’t feel the neeeeeed to work yet.  (oh, oh!)  I work at school and then deserve a vacation.  I can afford not to work now.”

Mom:You can afford it?  Who’s paying for your time off?  Until when?  Why?

Now that you have more of the privileges of adulthood, isn’t time that you also take on more of those responsibilities too?”

Quiet.

Mom:  “Aagh!  It’s tough when you want to eat your cake and keep it too!” (In French we say, ‘To have the butter and the money for the butter.’ ‘Avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.’)

We can all relate…and smile.

Dad: “Are we finished with the analysis and mutual-flagellation?”

Everyone:  “Poooooor Dad!”  “If it were THAT bad, why did you stay with us?” “Yes, dear ”

Mom: “Everyone clear his plate and takes at least one other thing back to the kitchen!”

Thus closed the evening meal and the Family Annual Review.

Our comments now hang in our Frame of Fame…where they’ll stay several weeks and re-appear from time to time over the year…as the need to be humble, be generous, think before speaking, advance step-by-step, or dress one’s age arises.

In this series:  Family Annual Review Peek-a-boo

Enjoy the whole shebang!

  1. To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.

Family Annual Review How To’s