We just dropped off our rental car at The Southampton, UK airport.
In England, they drive on the left side of the road. I live in France and in the US where we drive “normally” (!!!), that is on the right side.
I had been apprehending this automotive experience and nervously stalled car while exiting parking lot. “Mom, are you SURE you can handle this?” my sons inquired. We survived.
It was hard.
[bctt tweet=“My weakness contributed to our combined strength. Asking for help boosted everyone’s confidence.“]
Enjoy these precious parenting tips gleaned from our exotic automotive adventure:
Enlist Help.My weakness contributed to our combined strength.
Our focus determines our action plan. Look to the problems leads to fear-full measures. Aim for the goal stimulates a solution-finding approach.
Overcoming challenges builds, rather BOOSTS, confidence.
Boost Confidence –
Be weak to let others be strong
I made NO pretense about confidence. I had a teeny amount.
If we could each contribute our small portion of confidence to the common pool, we could have enough…
“Boys, we can include a special adventure in our trip which would require driving. I’m scared and would need your help. Are you up for it?”
Warmed by the children’s encouragement, I reserved the car.
We then created two driver-assistant roles:
The navigator who would help identify the route to follow so that I could focus on the road.
The left-side driver coach who would remind me to stay in the correct lane!
Both guides proved vital.
“Yes, Mom, the clouds are beautiful…but could you keep your eyes on the road, PLEASE?!”
Of course I still missed multiple turns and took us on detours. Some scenic detours. Some traffic-filled delays. No big deal.
An unexpected difficulty superseded what I had anticipated as the greatest challenge. I had feared swerving into the wrong lane.
Instead ended up driving off the road, sometimes barely missing cars parked on the left hand side! This dilemma, the problem that had not even occurred to me, ended up being our greatest challenge.
We sure benefited from those warnings:
“Mom, careful of the parked cars! You almost ran into it!!!” How embarrassing.
“Mom, you’ve passed the white line and are driving off the side of the road…That was the sidewalk you hit.” Oops.
“When they drive on the left, aren’t the slower traffic lanes on the left too? At your speed, are you where you should be…?” Feeling like beginner driver.
None of these comments bespoke, “Shining Star.” or “Wonder Mom.” They all communicated, “Mom, we love you AND we are with you.”
Boost Confidence –
Focus on the Goal, not the Barriers
Courage, willingness to take risks, and foresight are qualities I seek to encourage in my children.
This driving adventure created an opportunity for me to model these qualities for my children.
They hear about them all the time. This time, I could speak of their importance through actions, not merely with words.
One of our sons gets discouraged by academic challenges. When he encounters a difficult math problem, he stops.
“Did you ask your teacher? Could you get help from a friend?” I inquire with the most positive intent. He senses my concern and it feels like pressure to him.
My attempt to encourage backfires. Instead my child returns to his math homework, repeats his mistakes, and gives up anew. It’s like he reinvests in his losing strategy.
I wonder if he believes “Smart people don’t ask for help.” It’s an incorrect belief. And it’s bringing him down.
[bctt tweet=”Does my child believe that “Smart people don’t ask for help.” It’s false. And it’s debilitating.”]
He and I converse about this. And there is a time to stop talking (Now!) or I too would be reinvesting in my losing strategy!
This driving challenge provided the opportunity to model the behavior I seek in him. I could speak through actions instead of with words. Through a fun adventure I showed how
To set a worthwhile goal that reaches beyond the comfort zone
To identify potential challenges
To secure help to overcome them
To celebrate victories!!!
Boost Confidence by Overcoming Challenges
While standing in line at the airport, I smilingly confessed, “I’m proud of myself. I did something difficult”…
In unison, the boys interrupted me to complete the sentence: “AND YOU SUCCEEDED!”
In fact, we succeeded together and, thanks to the rented car and the additional flexibility it provided, we were able to visit Stonehenge, one of the great prehistoric sites…located deep in the English countryside.
…Surprise! The REAL travel adventure ended up being our flight back to Paris on a propeller plane!
It has been snowing all week. Every day. All day. Every night.
We go to the mountains to have snow, but deeeeep down, here is my real wish: I awake every morning to optimal ski conditions. Abracadabra.
Snow fall, ski slope grooming, and snow plowing would have all happened during my sleep 🙂
Do parents have a similar wish for their children’s good behavior?
Mom or Dad ask for a clean room. Like magic children’s toys are put away, the floor in spotless, the books are neatly stacked on the bookshelves, the bed is made, and the desk is cleared and ready-for-work. “Aussitôt dit. Aussitôt fait.” Say the word, and it’s done. Just to our liking, no less!
No need for any teaching, training, or follow through!
We moms and dads must have received our parenting tips straight Mary Poppins and Nanny MacFee. Or maybe our children were born with an innate understanding of what parents consider appropriate behavior…
Appropriate Behavior – Down to Earth Parenting Reality
Just as we adults benefit from training in our jobs, children benefit from training in order to be able to behave well.
[bctt tweet=”Like adults who get training in our jobs, children benefit from training in order to perform well. “]
Think about it. Did our sons and daughters clean their room in the womb? Did our babes learn proper table manners at the breast?
We parents often teach through discipline. We tell our kids what is wrong. “Your room is messy.” “Elbows off the table, please.”
How do they find out what is desirable behavior? Is there a more appropriate and encouraging way than through trial and error?
Would you like your boss to keep on telling you, “NO,” until you get it right? How motivating is that?!
Snow Inspired Parenting Tips for Teaching Kids
1. Enjoy the magic of NOW
Earth stills when snow falls.
Sounds are muted. Senses are chilled. Worries from the office seem faaaaaarrrrrr away.
These extraordinary apprenticeship years of our kids are precious and last such a short while. Sooner than later our kids graduate and move out.
What life skills and talents do our children take with them as they go out on their own? THIS is our parenting vocation.
My mother is celebrating a BIG birthday and we are writing her letters of thanks. I realized that I have many more memories with her AFTER having left home than while I was a child.
The birthday parties I recall through photos.
Here is what I remember through experience and which lives in my soul: the ambiance of love, the assurance that she had time for me, and her belief in my potential (especially when I acted out of line).
These qualities are communicated by savoring the present. The magic of small successes. Noticing appropriate behavior. Appreciating hard work. Encouraging me to persevere.
Aren’t those life skills you wish to pass onto your darlings?
2. Slow down before crashing
I love skiing FAST.
Except when there is no visibility and I wonder if I am about to speedily crash and plant my face into fresh powder.
When it snows, it is time to slow down. Just a tad.
When your child misbehaves, might it be an invitation to shift into a lower gear?
What is the cause of the inappropriate behavior?
Do the children even know exactly what is expected of them?
Do they have the capability of carrying out those tasks?
What could help them succeed even better?
In manufacturing circles, we refer to a bottleneck: THE operation that slows the entire process down.
No matter how much we improve other aspects of the manufacturing cycle, the process will only improve when we address THAT critical juncture.
Where is the weak point in your child’s ability to carry out your request? Slowing down helps you observe your sweethearts and identify their appropriate behavior “bottleneck.”
Are they not listening to instructions?
That’s a sure guarantee of misbehavior! So, the parenting issue to address is getting their attention before giving instructions.
Bend down to their level, make eye contact, smile, and THEN stipulate, “Honey, it is time to clean your room.”
Do the toys not have a home?
Playthings are tumbled into a box. To reach that one desired game, your child rummages through the entire stack (a.k.a. dumps them all over the floor). The issue is too many toys or finding a better way to store games.
“Sweetheart, you like a comfy home. Your toys want to be more comfortable too. Here are two boxes: toys-at-home and toys-on-vacation. Do you want to choose which toys go on vacation this week or should I? YOU can change every weekend!”
Slowing down helps identify your child’s unique bottleneck.
3. Break down the big job into smaller steps.
When it snows, visibility is reduced which renders many skiers less comfortable on the slopes. That’s when we CONSCIOUSLY rely on ski technique: bending down further to propel us through the turns in heavy snow, maintaining supple knees to absorb obstacles we no longer see, keeping our body weight correctly balanced over the skis…
Many of these gestures we do without thinking…until it snows and we once again recall and apply our technique.
In a similar way, when training the kids, why not break down a large task into its many smaller bits.
If our initial instructions (ex. clean your room) seems foggy to the kids, let us help them return to their comfort zone by reviewing the individual steps required for success of the total “project” (and securing appropriate behavior can seem like a PROJECT).
A clean room means
Nothing on the floor
The bed is made…and nothing is hiding under it
Clothes are put in the appropriate drawers
Toys and books are placed their assigned home
The desk has space to be able to work correctly
Think of our children’s tasks like a gourmet dish. There is a recipe to follow. Step by step.
If it’s good enough for the best chefs in the world, I’ll give it a go in our home too 🙂
4. Specify the criteria for “acceptable behavior” and “very well done.”
After snowfall, some slopes get plowed and others are left virgin. Different strokes for different folks.
A good skier can master the smooth surfaces even with minimal visibility. An excellent skier dances through the powder.
“Sweetheart, a cleanish room is when the bed is made and the clothes are off the floor. A super-dooper-totally-awesomely-amazingly-clean room is when you also put your socks in the sock drawer, your shirts in the shirt drawer….”
5. Celebrate performance
A steaming hot chocolate and warm (greasy) fries taste especially delicious when coming in from difficult ski conditions.
“Darling. Well done.”
Upon leaving our mountain chalet, we clean up. Kids help with the chores. During one vacation with my sister and her family, our Make-A-Loud-Fuss son resisted doing his job: to clean the bathroom sink & mirror.
She taught him the secret to super-shiny-bathroom-cleaning (Spray the chrome with window cleaner. It sparkles!) and off he went.
He made the chrome sparkle.
My sister rounded up the crew of siblings and cousins and they ALL marched to the bathroom to recognize a job well done.
Since that day, Mr.Fuss REQUESTS bathroom cleaning. He is the recognized family expert on appropriate bathroom cleanliness. We have delegated to him the responsibility of coaching his brothers on quality control.
That’s a win-win situation!
Helping our Kids Learn Appropriate Behavior
How would you and your family’s life be different if you took a fresh look at a “bad news” situation?
What one special thing can you appreciate about this time of life right NOW?
What is REALLY happening? Slowing down enables fresh observation.
What behavior do you, the parent, desire? What are intermediate steps?
How can you help your children differentiate between good and great?
How will you encourage REPEATED excellent behavior?
We’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.
(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.
Brothers: “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.”
Mom: “You have soooo much potential, darling. You know that, don’t you?”