Friday, October 30, 2015

What kind of grades did you get in school?

What kind of grades did you get in school?  Mine were decent.  Although, most of my grades I don’t remember at all.  What I do remember is the relationships I had with some of my teachers, lots of my friends, and, of course, the way I felt about my relationship with my parents.  Now that I have a career, the grades I had in middle school and high school feel so irrelevant.  But some of the relationships I had with teachers are still quite relevant and always will be.

Although I don’t know what my actual grade was in English my sophomore year, I will never forget the day my teacher pulled me aside to tell me how much she really liked a poem I had written.  I felt so incredibly capable, and so smart.  As a result, I wanted to keep writing!

I also recall a quiet conversation with my Spanish teacher about my failing grade. Somehow I walked  away feeling like I wasn’t dumb.  Nor did I feel like anyone thought I wasn’t trying hard enough. I concluded that Spanish was just hard and I was going to have to take it again to conquer it.
Then, of course, there are the friendships.  Although I have no idea what name and what particular comment belong to which memory, I sure do know how I felt about the way certain kids acted around me and made me feel.

All of these were so much more important to me than grades.  My grades were important, but I really didn’t need my parents harping on me if I made a B or an A on an assignment.  What I wanted, and needed, was for the adults in my life to recognize and value everything in my adolescent world other than just the grades.

I try to do that for my kids.  Sometimes I think they find me intrusive, but I keep trying.   I keep trying to send the message that no matter what their grades are, they need to keep their focus on being kind to others and trying their best.  I want them to try their best in relationships, as well as academics.  Character speaks volume for a person and never goes away.  I so desire for my children to develop character that speaks largely about who they are.  When they are adults, I hope they look back and remember that I nagged them about things that were important, and I hope they always find that relevant.

What are your memories of school, grades, friendships and teachers?  How can you make the most of your memories in empathizing with your child and helping them along the path to success?  

*Join the conversation.  Please come to our Coffee with the Counselor discussions in the Middle School.  Our next meeting is November 24 at 8:30 a.m. in the Middle School Conference Room.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Parenting is Hard

Have you ever given your child a compliment and she took it as a slam?  Parenting is hard.  One child will internalize the mildest criticism and the other will require lots of reminders about limits and natural consequences.  We don’t really don’t know which child we have because our kids present themselves in different ways all the time.  No parenting book, expert speaker or well-meaning friend could ever give us all the direction we need.  Parenting is not a perfect science.

Sometimes we mess up.  Messing up is good.  Just like we teach our children the value of failure, failure as a parent can be helpful too.  Consider this, if you always did exactly the right thing, and protected your child from every disappointment that a family can bring, what would it be like?  They would likely grow up into adults with no stamina for stress and no coping strategies for managing relationships and big ethical dilemmas.

Since none of us can actually provide a perfect environment, I guess we will never know.  But we do know that our own growth and our children’s growth are frequently prompted by hurt feelings, mistakes and all out failures.  We have heard quite a bit about the value of letting our kids fail, and we try, we really do. 

Still, work needs to be done in accepting our own failures as parents.  “I should have been more patient and helped him study for that math quiz.”  “I shouldn’t have yelled at her.”  “Why did I have to use a condescending tone of voice, I sound just like my mother!”  Yes, we all fail a little, and it’s okay.

In order for your children to develop the skill of forgiving themselves from failure and moving on, we have to model it.  Model accepting responsibility and apologizing when needed.  Avoid shifting blame.  Just own it and then let it go.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your teenager said, “I’m sorry I interrupted you and said the rules are dumb, dad.  I will work on my temper and do better next time”?  Wow, wouldn’t that be amazing?  In order for our children to do amazing things, it takes a bit of modeling from the adults around them.  It’s okay to admit failure.  By the way, it’s good for your own emotional health and promotes your children developing an essential life skill. 

To join in more conversations like this one, come to Coffee with the Counselor.  Our middle school counselor is hosting monthly sessions for parents to connect with each other, laugh and share stories.  One parent commented, “It’s so nice to know we are not doing this alone.  Everyone else is going through it too.”  We hope to see you next month for this casual conversation, October 27 at 8:30 a.m. in the middle school.  RSVP to Michelle Bostian.