“Is it Ok for me to sleep in today…just today pleaaase!”
I knew something was wrong.
When my fourteen-year old son pleaded for not going to school for the third time in two weeks… I knew something was wrong.
In fact, let’s be honest with this: I saw it coming!
From his tender age, my son has never been your “brilliant”, self-reliant type of kid.
And we’ve never helped as parents. Parenting counseling was never on the agenda before we got married.
His dad –my divorcee- has always sustained our only son’s interest and good performance at school the ‘carrot and stick’ method.
When the next play station, a better cell phone, or other electronic gadget, travel to Europe or some fancy places did not seem to work, my ex- would revert to anger and threatening.
I, on my end, helplessly carried out my divorcee’s agenda.
First, so as not to confuse my son,
And second of all, because I was a coward! I did not feel confident enough, nor had the courage to look for or offer any better alternative.
In my defense, I was only eighteen myself when I had my child…
I was almost a child myself.
And had almost no clue about how to bring up a child except a faint remembrance of how I was raised myself.
I lacked even the ABCs or essentials to raise a child.
Sometimes, I just felt I wanted to be left alone myself.
When Shayden reached out desperately looking for advice, her main concern was how to motivate her growing teenage son into finishing his studies.
The sheer idea of her son failing in his studies or quitting school was so painful and simply unbearable to her, as to a large extent it would be a source of shame to her family, her son and herself. More than anything else, it would validate ‘others’ opinion that she is herself an incapable person and a total failure for that matter, whether in her personal or professional life.
Oftentimes kids are educated through a duality of reward and punishment mindset.
Such children become used to external motivators (positive or negative) for their performance.
Perks, rewards, and prizes on one end, and emotional blackmail and threatening on the other can only carry along the child to a certain extent.
When the child is not intrinsically (=from within) motivated,
no matter how enticing or attractive the reward, or how drastic the consequence of not complying is,
there will come a point, a break point,
where a resentment built-up cumulates to reach a no-return dead end.
At the point,
you need to sit down with your child.
The hay days of behaviorism and ‘Pavlovian’ stimulus-response theory, (translated into the ‘carrot and stick theory’ in popular culture education) have long bygone!
Proven their short-lived effects.
When our bag of rewards has depleted.
When interest has waned.
It is time for connection.
And instead of dangling the next shiny thing in front of our kid in hope of having him pull the desired feelings, motivation and courage to take the next step…
We hold off,
accompany the child in a process of introspection and inner self knowing journey,
to reach to that part that is so dark, so deep inside,
yet once dug deep into, holds the treasure for us.
When we ask questions such as: who am I? what are the things, subjects, activities, I enjoy? What is my favorite subject at school? what do I want to become in life? How do I really foresee myself in 3, 5, or 10 years from now?
It is only when we as parents engage in such unguaranteed exploration,
when we enter these discussions without a pre-planned agenda as to
the desired outcome;
when we let go of the expectation of coming out of the discussion as winners because we are the ‘adult’ , ‘the parent’, ‘the wiser’,
when we embrace our vulnerabilities,
Embrace the fact that things might not go according to our fantasy,
accept that our child might decide to change the course of his life in a way and direction that may not be so agreeable to what we plotted for them,
all the doors to our child’s unfolding into who he is, his real potential, open in front of him.
Many kids go through their entire life and grow into adults living the dreams, stories and fantasies that someone else has dreamt…
And find themselves caught up living a social façade of conformity that is sometimes totally at odds with who they really really are, and what their own dreams are.
And the pain, when not completely bearable,
When no longer ‘buriable*’
Emerges in different ways and forms.