Life Ready Kids – Good With The Obvious
Being good with the obvious isn’t always something people respect. I feel sorry for baseball commentators that run out of things to talk about but still have to keep talking because that is their job. If you think being a commentator for baseball is hard, what about NASCAR? I can’t imagine having to talk for 3-4 hours without saying something stupid. So, to keep from saying something dumb, they simply point out the obvious.
We tend to make fun of people who state the obvious (“Captain Obvious”), but I’m convinced that being good with the obvious is a gift, especially if you are good at recognizing it in your own life. Here is a phrase that sums up the best of discovering the obvious:
“I can’t keep doing what I’m doing and hope to get what I want.”
It is much easier to notice the obvious flaws with other’s plans rather than our own. I was a much better parent before I became a parent. I’m also much better at complaining about politics than dealing with politics in my own organization.
In the same way, it is pretty easy for us as parents to see the obvious reality of our kid’s choices. We try desperately to help our kids make the obvious good choice when it comes to something simple like eating too much candy, not doing homework, or not wearing a coat. Yet, when we can’t get through we have learned that a natural consequence will come along and teach them. Our biggest temptation is to rub their face in it by gloating. Avoid the “I told you so” because it will lead to “I’ll show you”, and neither of you benefit from that challenge.
It’s much harder when our kids are choosing friends we don’t like, dating people who are wrong for them, choosing careers that lead to dead ends, and wanting to put gaps in their ears or have permanent pictures drawn all over the beautiful skin you spent 18 years protecting. In these cases, there will be logical consequences but those can be a cruel teacher this time, because the cost is high and the teaching may come too late.
In order to be life ready, our kids need to be good with the obvious. That means that they can see the obvious, and even more importantly, they can act on the obvious. They live lives which are based in reality and they don’t spend their energy living in fantasy.
I’m not asking you to wipe out your kid’s imagination, aspirations or hope, but I am suggesting that reality is a great place to build from. Here are several suggestions that help kids become good with the obvious:
- Start young – Allow kids to safely bump against reality even when they are young, cute, and fragile. These early experiences with reality will teach them that certain things are bigger and stronger than us and we need to accept the obvious, realize our limitation, and make a new plan.
- Seed their life with opportunities for positive and negative consequences. If they work for money, they get to buy fun things. If they don’t work, they don’t get fun things. Chores and commissions are work for parents too, but they provide amazing opportunities for natural consequences to be experienced.
- Keep a stable goal and adaptable strategy. These are those amazing conversations when you get to hear your kid share what they want. Don’t focus on the car, focus on the desire for independence, responsibility, and all the other things a car brings. That goal, as it is represented in a car, is something that you can keep coming back to. The strategy of how they are going to afford the car or which car they want can change depending on the reality of their work, and strategy is a great thing to discuss. However, always bring it back to a goal that will guide how they move forward.
- Share personally. For some reason, we expect our kids to know what goes through our minds when we make a choice. Instead, just talk through your decisions and why you choose certain things. It doesn’t need to be lengthy or preachy, but just share how you allow reality to shape your decisions. For example, you could share, “I’d really like to take the afternoon off and go _____, but I’ve made these commitments and it would keep me from spending time doing _______. I’d better look for a better time for that.”
- Affirm each time they adjust to reality. This is probably the best way to break the power of knowing the truth but not wanting to act on it. Affirmations are powerful. Saying something like, “Wow, it must have been hard to break up with Suzi. I know you don’t like to hurt people and I’ve seen you time and time again make choices which help other people but make your life harder. It took a lot to accept that this relationship wasn’t going to be what either of you needed and you took a tough step. I’m proud of you for making a hard decision.”
It’s obvious isn’t it? If you want your kids to be great at seeing the reality in their own lives, it’s going to take you being good with the obvious, too.
Question: How are you doing with the obvious things in your life? What has been helpful for you as you help your kids learn to recognize and change based on the obvious?