I coach a couple who questioned if perhaps, they were expecting too much from their 7th grade son.
In the summer following 5th grade their son wanted a cell phone. With promises and hope they agreed that he would earn a phone when he mastered keeping his grades above a specified level and going to bed and getting up on time without being prompted.
More than a year later, and still not meeting the requirements, their son was angry and frustrated. He accused his parents of treating him unfairly and not getting it. He claimed he’s the only one who doesn’t have a phone. And he asserted that he misses out, is left out and sticks out!
This outcry triggered his parents to question the emotional and social fallout. They wanted to do the right thing, but what it was wasn’t clear. They fretted over the only options they saw: give in and get him a phone or dive deeper and insist that he meet the expectations.
That’s when they contacted me. After some discussion we crafted a plan.
They reassured their son that the three of them still share the same goal of him getting a phone. They reminded him that they believe in him and understand that he feels left out. They asked him to articulate ideas of what he could do differently to improve his grades and master his end of day and morning tasks. And they encouraged him to ask for help and promised to support him in every way possible.
By handing the problem-solving steps to their son and being emotionally sensitive, their son devised strategies that he made work. His parents’ approach was the boost he needed to re-engage and shift his focus to action and away from anger.
Next up on his parents’ agenda is collaborating with their son on phone use and responsibility.
Mary, a bubbly eighth grader, waited for her ride as I was leaving our middle school. She was excited, telling me her soccer team would be competing in the regional championships this weekend. They’d never won a big tournament, but she felt they had a solid chance. I wished her luck and told her I’d love to hear how it goes.
Mary and her mom caught up with me walking into school Monday morning.
“Hey, Mary, how’d it go?”
“It was the best!” Mary said, jumping up and down, wrapped in joy and a huge grin.
Then her mom said, “They were tied with a few minutes left. Mary scored. I was so proud of her! All the parents were up and out of their chairs clapping and yelling. We won the game and the tournament. It was my Mary who made it happened. I’m the happiest and proudest mom in town.”
But, it wasn’t her mom’s story. It is Mary’s story. And, it’s Mary’s story to tell.
If Mary had told her story it would have sounded something like this:
“We made it to the finals! We were playing a tough team. We were tied with a couple minutes left. The coach called time out and laid out the plan.
Kyra, our captain shouted to us, ‘This is our chance! We’re taking it! We’re here to win.’ For a second, I pictured us singing “We are the Champions!”
The dribbler on the other team left too much space between the ball and her feet. Lyla, the quickest girl on our team, stole it and kick it to me. I took it downfield.
The defender on my right tried to force me into the corner. I stopped, even with the goal posts, with my foot on the ball, and she kept going. I turned, dribbling at an angle. The defender on my left wanted it bad. The goalie was set. I turned, kicked the ball high away from the goalie and scored! We won!!!”
When Mary shares her story, she re-plays her team’s effort, her strategy and her emotions. The value of her voicing her story is multi-beneficial: ownership and pride in her successful maneuvers to score, sense of self in her abilities and belonging, and confidence speaking to adults.
Want to help your child be more confident and surer? Let them tell their stories, the doctor about their symptoms, the leader or coach about a concern, and you about everything.
Warm regards and appreciation for all you do,