February 23, 2017
I distinctly remember getting in trouble two times in school. In fourth grade, I decided to expand my vocabulary on the playground. High schoolers in my neighborhood used very passionate words when they were being cool. I wanted to be cool. My teacher, however, not only disapproved of my colorful language, she did not agree that it was cool. The second and last major discipline issue I remember in school occurred in fifth grade. I assisted my friend on her states and capitals test, during the test. For some reason, my teacher disapproved of my support.
Both of my choices resulted in significant consequences. Consequences that seared into my brain that I would be held accountable for my actions. Consequences that clearly communicated I would not be allowed to get away with, well, anything.
In sixth grade, I struggled in math. In the first quarter of the year, I struggled so desperately that I earned a “D” and an “F” on my report card. I know, right? How is that even possible? Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Having faced significant consequences for cheating in 5th grade, I resolved to try a different approach in math. By the end of the year, I dug myself out of the hole. It was horrible. It was hard. But, I survived. I am reminded of the quote in the movie Robin Hood. Costner’s character expresses passionate frustration when the character, committed to guarding Costner, misses an opportunity to protect him. The character responds to Costner’s reaction frankly and directly. “You whine like a mule. You are still alive.”
My mom kept my 6th-grade report card. I wanted to burn it. It was painful. For a while, I resented her for it. Every time I wanted to quit or every time she held me accountable for wrong choices, she brought out my 6th-grade report card. While that may sound like cruel and unusual punishment, her decision exercised great wisdom. In quarter two, I earned two C’s. In quarter three, I earned a B and a B-. By quarter four, I earned an A- and B+.
Her decision to save my report card provided me concrete evidence that I could overcome obstacles. It served as a reminder that life would be a challenge; but, if I put my heart into it, I could overcome its challenges.
I remember the first time I faced the heartbreak of disciplining both Maddy and Hunter. I cried for an hour each time. I remember the first time I knew they were each going fail an assignment. I remember desperately wanting to fix their errors. I remember calling my mom desperately wanting her to encourage me to do just that. I will never forget her response, “If you can live with the consequence of fixing it for them, go ahead.” In those times, there was nothing I hated more than parenting.
I see the fruits of our choice to embrace failure as I watch Maddy manage her life in another state, with great success. Oh, she still struggles, and she still fails. She’s human. But when she calls us, she calls to share how she managed it. She doesn’t ask us to fix it. The more I see her manage life, the more I embrace allowing Hunter to work through his struggles and failures. As you can imagine, he’s thrilled.
Parenting stinks. Watching our children walk the road of difficult lessons can be devastating. I get it. I live it. At times, I want to blame others. At times, I want to justify their actions. I want to explain away their choices. In those times, I have a choice. I have to decide if I can live with the consequences of fixing it for them. Or, I have to decide to let them learn from their choices. Remember this, the fruits of our labor allow the human beings most precious to us on this earth to grow into productive members of society. Stay strong.
Honored to Serve You All,
Food for Thought: The following are great articles addressing ways to encourage ownership and accountability in your teen. 3 Tips for Parents to Teach Teens to Take Academic Responsibility and Ways to Encourage Your Teen to Take Ownership