Sometimes when I share a story about raising children it raises eyebrows. It’s as though I’m sharing a completely new concept. Some people have asked, “Where did you learn that?” Or, “What book did you find that in?” The sequence of events always seems so logical; even logical, in the moment, to those whose eyebrows it raised. So logical that when the eyebrows went up last night I decided that it’s time to act on the suggestions to share some of these stories.
I think a challenging part of life is being clear about what we are hoping to gain from our efforts. Take a Win-Lose mentality for example. In a world of win-lose, in order for one person’s needs to be met another’s must suffer—if somebody wins somebody else must lose. I see this with parents all the time. When they put their kids “first” by default they sign up to be the sufferer and the marital relationship suffers along with it. In some cases they even feel content in their suffering. The suffering seems logical. Why? Because in the mentality in which you choose to live, you will find all kinds of reasons that back it up.
A Course In Miracles states, “You cannot evaluate an insane belief system from within it.”
That’s why what I shared seemed logical in the moment to those with raised eyebrows. They stepped out of win-lose for long enough to witness another way.
In the world of win-lose, kids will always have something going on that needs attention more than enjoying yourself and your partner and keeping the marital relationship healthy. If it’s not sports, it’s academics, a birthday party, or somebody’s sick or in trouble. Taking care of yourself and enjoying yourself in a soul nurturing kind of way may even be viewed as a selfish indulgence. And if you would otherwise enjoy attending or hosting an event, planning a graduation or first communion party for example, a win-lose mentality will suck the fun right out of it by transforming it into a chore for you to suffer through financially, obligatorily or otherwise. The exorbitant cost of college these days fits right in with a win-lose mentality. (I’ll share more on that story in another post.)
But what if there was another mentality where no one had to suffer and with all kinds of logic that backed it too?
From a Win-Lose Perspective:
In the world of win-lose if your kids don’t do their homework enough times they will fail or at least operate below their potential. And if they repeatedly operate below their potential they will get behind in school. And if they get behind they could stay back or not get into a college of their choice. And if they don’t get into a good college they could end up working at McDonalds for the rest of their lives. (Nothing against working at McDonalds. You know what I’m getting at.)
So what does a parent of an elementary or middle school aged child often do to avoid their child’s potential for failure (for losing)? Maybe it’s changed since my children were small but parents I knew would:
talk of sitting at the kitchen table to ensure that homework got done.
basically do the project for the child.
double-check the homework so that the child would get it all right.
dialogue with the teacher to be sure the child wasn’t missing anything.
shame or punish the child for not trying hard enough and reward the child for excelling.
It's kind of like saying, "I'll suffer so you won't have to." This win-lose world is the world of avoiding judgment, blame and condemnation. This fear-based world preaches what to avoid to escape from harm and its logic is pretty convincing. I don’t know about you but me doing 6th grade homework wasn’t age appropriate and double checking homework wasn’t in my kids' best interests. Perhaps you are thinking that I am insensitive about now, but please, take a few deep breaths, then open your mind to the possibility of another way and read on.
From ‘Another Mentality’ Perspective:
When my son was in 6th grade (middle school) I’d ask him every night, “Did you finish your homework?” Andy would respond with a resounding, “yes” but my gut was feeling otherwise. To me, being a student was his job, not mine. Doing homework was part of the job description. It was age appropriate and so were its consequences. Andy had always been a mostly-A student. School had come easily but based on what the other parents were saying about all the homework, I suspected he was lying.
Well, when report cards came out, the truth be told, my little A student had 3 C’s. Andy was mortified. He begged, “Mom, please don’t put my report card on the fridge. Please don’t tell Grandma or the girls (his sisters).” Did I need to punish him? I think he was doing a pretty good job on his own.
Andy and I discussed what had happened. He thought his teachers were giving too much homework. He had reconciled it in his little mind by going on strike. Pretty creative for a 6th grader but I helped him to see how his choice had backfired. It hadn’t hurt his teachers. He was the only one hurting. There is even a book out titled, "Men on Strike." I can't help but wonder if these men are emotionally stuck in 6th grade.
We talked about how middle school was different than elementary school:
There wasn’t as much time to get homework done in class because you traveled from classroom to classroom and from teacher to teacher.
As you grow older more is expected of you because you are capable, not as punishment.
And rather than have one teacher now you have several so one is often not aware of what another has assigned. It’s not personal but it can feel overwhelming at times.
I painted the picture that Andy hadn’t had the maturity to vision on his own. How else could he know? And wasn't that my job?
Andy fell on his face, age appropriately, in middle school. There was value in the consequences that he would have missed out on if I had 'double-checked.' He learned that there was a bigger picture to consider when he was frustrated and the importance of doing homework for himself. He liked how A’s and B’s felt better than C’s from experience rather than because someone told him that poor grades would ruin his future. If he got a B he learned to soul search. If it was the best he could do he was content and if he could give the subject more effort he’d admit it and try harder the following quarter.
When there was a class that he didn’t enjoy we’d talk about it. There was always an opportunity to find some other value to garner like learning study skills that would be invaluable to pursuing a passion, or learning to manage his time or discussing the difference between how it feels to walk into a classroom where the teacher is passionate about their subject versus a teacher who is there for the tenure. There was so much more to learn in school than just academics.
As parents, we made ourselves available as supports, but we never had to sit at the kitchen table for more than a couple of minutes at homework time. I never had to sacrifice the things that brought me soul nurturing joy to be a parent either. To the contrary, those things served to make me a better parent as long as I carved time out for them in a way that no one had to suffer. Nurturing souls was part of my job description. The better I got at nurturing my own, the better I was at nurturing those of my family. It takes gas to drive a car. I did choose to put some things aside so that I could fully enjoy parenting but I saw these as choices rather than losses.
I'd much rather spend time talking with my son about what's on his heart than sit next to him while he does his homework but your mileage may vary and your circumstances might differ. Getting to know my child is a job description that makes me want to run toward parenting. And isn’t some of our age appropriate homework to keep the marriage, the foundation of the family, in impeccable shape? Andy ended up being in mostly all AP classes in high school and went on to college and then graduate school. We all gained.
I have come to refer to this mentality as Win-Win. It is a world of truth, love and beauty—a love-based world that is approachable. It contains everything we need in order to learn to have joy. And believe me, I did try the Win-Lose route. I’m certain I had a master’s degree in it even. And what did I gain? Health issues and a resentful spirit. When things aren’t working sometimes you just have to admit to it and then muster up the courage to go back to ground zero and begin again. I've been back on many occasions. Such is life.
What world are you living in? Win-Lose or Win-Win? Or something else? Remember it’s a choice.
What are you hoping to gain or gaining from your efforts as a parent? A child who knows what to avoid? Or a child who runs toward life with arms open to receive its bounty? Are you content with the parent you are at the end of the day? Or are you drained and cranky.
The tough part can be making the switch. I’m here if you need a hand while crossing the bridge from avoidance to approach. What is logical in a win-win world is ludicrous in a win-lose one and vice versa. Fascinating stuff!
"A wise teacher teaches through approach, not avoidance. He does not emphasize what you must avoid to escape from harm, but what you need to learn to have joy." ~ A Course In Miracles
Friends in this Love,