Graduation season is behind us. Maybe you attended Kindergarten Step-Up Day or a college graduation or maybe something in-between.
We had our own graduation celebration here in East Middlebury this past weekend. My middle child graduated from High School and will head out on her own come September. Graduation is always a time for me to reflect on the child who will soon be flying solo.
Here are a few reflections as they pertain to the Parenting On Track™ Program (because as I mentioned in the last post – YES, I do use the program and here’s how:)
1. Do Nothing – Say Nothing: This remains my secret weapon of choice. Here’s why. My kids change. They change all the damn time. I tend to change less often as I get older, so it is up to me to find ways to change along with my kids. The only sure fire way I know to do that – is to shut-up and watch for 7 days. I do this on a regular basis. In fact, I do it at least 2 times each year, sometimes more, if I know a particular child is going through a major growth spurt. As a result of shutting-up, observing and learning, I am able to parent each child in a way that supports their unique personality and perspective. This in turn, builds a deep and lasting relationship that can stand the ups and down that every relationship is bound to experience. In this particular child’s case, I have learned: she is extremely loyal, independent, funny, easily embarrassed, hates making mistakes, loves children and people over the age of 92. This is helpful information if I am to stay close to her as she ventures further and further from home.
2. Buttons: As I have said repeatedly, this one strategy alone is like holding the key to a locked door that hides treasures more valuable than gold. Whenever I start acting crazy, I know my kids have accidentally stumbled upon one of my activating events, a mistaken belief, a “BUTTON!” Listen, I can not begin to calculate how many hours of misunderstanding, fights and power struggles I have avoided because of this one simple, easy to use concept along with a strategy that literally takes 5 minutes to put into place.
3. Timeline for Training: You can’t raise kids who have the ability at 18 to make all the necessary arrangements for living abroad for another year, defer from college for a year AND maintain their scholarship money, if you don’t start by asking them to unload the dishwasher every single day before they leave for school and every evening before they jump on the computer. It just won’t happen folks.
You can’t raise kids who trust themselves, feel confident making decisions, are willing to take chances, rebound from blunders without missing a step, and have a realistic view of themselves and the world they live in, if you haven’t invited them to participate in their own lives EVEN when it was easier to manage their lives for them.
The Timeline for Training is a concept, when understood and used regularly, empowers the entire family and creates a kind of kinship and comradery that translates well beyond daily contributions.
4. 4 Mistaken Goals of Behavior: Here is what I know: our kids have a certain solution that they adopted around the age of 3, 4 or 5. This solution has now become their biggest and most reliable problem. The good news is, once you know what that problem is, you can provide a support system to your kids that is free from judgment and disappointment. It is liberating.
It is not uncommon for me to pour myself a cup of tea and wait patiently for my child to hit up against the same obstacle she has been hitting up against for 12 years. I am ready, with kindness, compassion and empathy. I am in no rush to give her the answer or try to make life easier for her. On the contrary, I am there to provide a sounding board for her, because I know, there will be a moment in her life, when she realizes that the problem she faced when she was 7, is the problem she is facing at 27 and suddenly, the answer is there, waiting for her. And at that moment, my kid will realize that I was there, beside her, trusting her to figure it out when she was ready and she will know how deep my love and respect is for her.
5. All of the “Invest in the Best” strategies have provided me years of pleasure as a mom. They are the tools I use to build strong, healthy, loving, accepting, respectful relationship with not only my kids, but anyone else who is important to me in my life. When the relationship we have with our kids is solid, there is little need for discipline strategies. I don’t care what anyone else tells you, come talk to my five kids and they will tell you that “punishments and consequences” just weren’t part of their childhood experience – and yet, there was order in our lives and there were clear expectations and there was restitution and there were thousands of solutions.
My husband I decided to invest heavily on the relationship we were building with each child, knowing that it would take years for us to experience the payoffs. And let me say right now, that having kids who truly like, care and respect you as a parent and a person is a payoff worth waiting for.
6. The “Tools of Necessity” became my teeny, tiny, secret weapon. I became a master at utilizing these tools when I felt us sliding down the Slippery Slope towards the Rabbit Hole. These common sense strategies saved my ass more times than I care to share AND the best part is my kids began using them as a way to support the family when we all seemed to be stuck or struggling. It is truly amazing to listen to teenagers who care so deeply about their family’s emotional health, that they will use the “distraction” strategy to break the tension even if it means looking like a complete idiot in the process.
7. Over the years, we have found ways to celebrate our lives together as a family that can only describe as “mind blowing”. From simple gatherings around lit candles where appreciations we given and received, to major trips anchoring a storm weathered that brought every member of the family closer together.
As my oldest daughter likes to say –
“We have a “way” of being together that draws people towards us. We have a “way” of being together that tells a special story about who we are to each other.
And she is right, we do. And that is because we worked at it.