Plugged-In Parenting is a concept I introduce in my new book, Field Guide to Plugged-In Parenting, Even if You Were Raised by Wolves due out November 15, 2013. Plugged-In Parenting is another way to say, parenting with intention. The way this looks for me is to show vulnerability with my kids, admit when I’ve made a mistake, and ask for help when I don’t know how to do something.
Last week was a lesson in asking for help, or what happens when you don’t.
My youngest is a freshman in high school this year, and her high school is a vastly different experience than her middle school. She was top dog at her small middle school: honor student, captain of the volleyball team, and all around kick butt 8th grader. When she started her 9th grade year, it was with trepidation. The high school is four times the size of her middle school, and she’s just another 9th grader. She made the Junior Varsity team, and was actually elected co-captain, but she underestimated the amount of work that would go into taking honors classes and playing volleyball…she got overwhelmed.
My first clue was her attitude; she was prickly and witchy (yes, I spelled that with a w!), and her goofy side seemed to have taken a vacation. The climax of this odd behavior was when she broke down after a crummy practice, saying she just couldn’t handle it…high school was too hard. I told her to go to bed, and we would talk about it in the morning.
She seemed calmer the next morning, but I started my own form of freak out when I opened my computer to find her grades online report on my machine…she had 3 grades that weren’t her normal A’s or even her occasional B. WHAT THE HECK (no dollars in the curse jar for that, although I believe I have an IOU for what I actually said!)
After I did some deep breathing, I called the school to make an appointment with her counselor. It turns out that she had fallen behind in math, and she was completely overwhelmed. The other two grades were a result of missing grades due to an absence.
We called her in and developed a plan of attack. My first reaction was to punish her by taking away volleyball, but then I thought about all the girls on the team that might be facing the same issue. So, I told her that she would be the sacrificial lamb as her punishment, not for getting a bad grade but for not asking for help. I’m a big proponent of asking for help; that’s the easiest way to discover your real friends (or members of your Pride, since I’m all about the lioness energy these days).
In her role of sacrificial lamb, she approved me talking with her team about her experience. I asked them if anyone else was feeling overwhelmed, and every hand in the room shot up. I heard stories of not being able to focus, not having enough time to study before and after practice, and not wanting to admit they needed help.
I suggested a plan, whereby the girls would stay after school to study before home games and parents would bring in food and drinks, so that the girls could help each other study. We started it the next day, and the girls played the best game of their season.
I realize that when times are good, it feels great, but there’s no growth there.
Growth happens during the icky times. If I had just punished Emily for messing up, the ending to this story would have been much different. But sometimes, I do actually learn something from my research. I just finished Brene Brown’s, Daring Greatly, and in her chapter on Wholehearted Parenting, she talks about the necessity to be vulnerable and stay in the discomfort long enough to learn something. I could have swept the whole thing under the rug; then no one would ever know that the parenting coach’s kid had problems… but that’s the old Terri. The new and improved version decided to show up authentically, and teach her kid to do the same. This is my version of intentional parenting.
I can’t control everything, but I can certainly react in a way that accepts mistakes and turns them into a lesson.
My kid also learned that I would be there for her, in good times and bad. The bonus part was that it wasn’t just her lesson; it helped the team as well. Was it comfortable? Hell , no! Was it necessary? For me and my child, HELL, YES! (I know… two more dollars in the curse jar)
What does your version of intentional parenting look like?
Please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Better yet, add your big ideas in the comments below!