“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. It’s a phrase worth considering at every brick wall we encounter, and at every disappointment. It’s a reminder that failure is not just acceptable, it’s often essential.” ~Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Many of you have heard the statement that parents are a child’s most important teacher. What do you want your children to know about life and growing into adulthood? What will inspire them to work towards finding their passion and fulfilling their potential? What skills and attitudes do they need when obstacles appear?
Of course they will look up to you for your accomplishments. They will also be inspired by your attitude and how you react when things are not going according to plan. The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line. But we know that in life, going from where you are to where you want to be often involves detours, delays and sometimes a change in destination – - in other words, the unexpected brick walls.
Sometimes the wall may be relatively insignificant in the scheme of things. Other times it may be life-altering. Sometimes the wall is an attitude or emotional disposition. Remember that it is how you handle the small things that lays the groundwork for the bigger challenges. So how do you handle the wall? Are you standing in front of it, frustrated, angry, immobilized? Are you going around it, or over it, or tearing it down with adaptability, creativity and the attitude of a learner? Kids are always watching to see what we will do. Here are some tips for getting to the other side of the wall.
Assess the situation. What is the challenge before you? Is it really insurmountable?
Brainstorm your options. Write down all possibilities, from the sublime to the ridiculous. (This process can lead to some creative solutions!) Eliminate what obviously won’t work.
Evaluate the finalists for the most realistic, achievable steps.
Take action. Put your full effort into this new action plan. If necessary, rethink your goal. Is it critical to achieve exactly what you set out to do? Is compromise possible? What is the worst thing that will happen if you do, and is it really the worst thing?
And finally, reflect. How did you feel when you hit the wall? How did you feel after you developed and implemented a new strategy? What did you learn about the process? about yourself? What are you teaching your children about navigating through life?
It is said that we learn the most from our challenges. They test us and strengthen us. We gain experience, knowledge and wisdom. Give your children the gift of allowing them to ‘experience’ life. Questions for reflection:
1. Think of a time when something didn’t go the way you planned. What strategies did you use to fix or change the situation? What personal strengths helped you through it?
2. What do your children know about the things you struggled with growing up? How do you think sharing this might inspire them?
3. How do you respond to your children when they ‘mess up?’ Do you criticize, try to fix it, or encourage them to problem-solve?
4. Which listening/communication skills and ‘brick wall’ strategies will you use the next time your child is faced with an obstacle?
~Fern Weis, Certified Coach and Middle School Teacher, helps parents break down the walls their teens put up, so they can have a great relationship and better prepare their kids for success in college and beyond. Learn how Fern can help you with your parenting concerns through coaching, classes and workshops at Your Family Matters.