My daughter, Margo, came into the kitchen where my wife and I were talking. The look on her face was a clear indicator that something had happened. She explained that her twin sister, Josie, had crashed her bike. Before we had time to respond, Josie gingerly walked into the kitchen carrying her helmet. She had road rash head to knee. Her cheekbone, lip, and nose all had a visible injury. My wife quickly took charge with the antiseptic spray and shower to wash the wounds.
Margo and I remained in the kitchen. I asked her what had occurred and she began to explain. Josie was on the sidewalk, heading down our steep neighborhood hill. Her speed exceeded her ability. She lost control, hit the curb, and flew off of her bike head first. Margo had attempted to immediately come to retrieve us but Josie asked her not to do so. She had a plan. Turns out, she had not been wearing her helmet. If we had immediately gone outside to help, she would not have been able to alter reality. Delaying notification allowed her time to get to the garage and grab her helmet before entering the house. Maybe if she carried the helmet, we would be none the wiser. Her sister was all too eager to enlighten us regarding her sister's attempt to alter reality.
As parents, we know we can’t allow this chorale to continue. Josie, by nature, is a very trusting soul. She knew we would be disappointed or even angry with her for not wearing her helmet. Helmet wearing has been a steadfast rule in our house from the beginning of their two-wheel experience. We as parents always wear helmets to ensure we are examples and not exceptions. My wife gave her an opportunity to come clear and she did.
Attempting to alter reality is a big deal. There are consequences required when any person alters reality, adults and children alike. Neither wants to accept the consequences but they are necessary. As parents, it can be difficult to impose consequences because it makes it difficult on us. There will be crying, whining, and teeth gnashing. Don’t let these responses intimidate you. Deal with it head-on. Not by yelling but by clearly articulating the expectations. There needs to be a high level of accountability for our children, as well as ourselves.
Today, it seems the motto is “go along to get along”. No matter the issue, we avoid the truth about the situation if it is going to cause any amount of pain. We allow our kids to escape the necessary recourse for their mistakes or more important violation of the rules. We all need boundaries. We don’t like having boundaries but constraint is the only strategy to avoid tyranny. Chaos will be the life of people without boundaries. The appetite of man is insatiable unless governed by rules and consequences.
Total freedom is a recipe for disaster just as total constraint is a recipe for misery. The beautiful reality is that there is a middle ground that when realized results in harmony and resonance. We tend to live like the bowling ball with the bumpers up on the alley. Careening from side to side until hitting the target or landing in the gutter.
Developing the following skills in yourself and in your children will set the stage for a better future.
If you have any interest in cultivating resilience in your child, you must teach and encourage them to acknowledge the current situation for what it is. Sometimes life really sucks and the best strategy is to embrace the suck. Pain is temporary but regret can last forever. Overweight? Acknowledge it. Hate your job? Acknowledge it. In a bad marriage? Acknowledge it. Drink too much? Acknowledge it. We seem to mistake acknowledgment for acceptance. These are two different words with two different meanings. Acknowledgment means acceptance of the truth. Acceptance is consent to receive something offered. When we acknowledge reality, we accept the truth of our current situation. We aren’t accepting of a situation when we acknowledge it. Acknowledging a situation for what it is can be the beginning of implementing a solution. It is impossible to deal with something we are unwilling to see. After facing reality, we will need to learn to plan a new reality.
Teaching our children about the power of vision and the role it can play in creating a new reality is critical. Parents want to gift their child every available tool for constructing a life. Tools help us create. For example, money creates freedom. Vocabulary is a tool for helping us communicate. Vision is a tool for creating a future. We can’t change the past and must accept it as reality. However, we can determine our future. The place to start to create our desired future is to envision what that ideal future looks like. If we know what our desired future looks like we can begin to identify the actions to take in making it a reality.
It will be impossible to bring our vision to reality without accepting responsibility for it. Teaching our children to accept responsibility is another incredible gift. My experience has been that few adults can accept responsibility. Instead, they have abdicated their ability to respond to what the government does, corporations suggest and the news implies. How can we teach our children to accept responsibility when we are unwilling to do the same? Our children watch our actions with greater intent than they listen to our words. If our words are not consistent with our actions, they will see it. Kids are pros at sniffing out hypocrisy.
Gifting our children a process for making decisions will serve them their entire life. Here is an example from military flight school: OODA. First is to observe the situation. This requires that we remain alert and ready. Second is orient. After observing the situation, we need to orient ourselves to understand the variables. Third is decide. Deciding the next course of action is where most of us miss the mark. We procrastinate and hesitate when we need to decide. Forth is to act. The first three steps in the decision-making process mean nothing if we are unwilling to take action. Action is how we alter our current course to a more favorable course.
Teaching our children to acknowledge the current reality, visualize their desired future, take responsibility for all aspects of their life, and how to make decisions by applying a process is how we can truly empower them to control their destiny. Be an example for them by applying these same tools is your life on a day to day basis.