Originally, I was planning to write a post pondering this question: What, besides academics and extracurriculars, are you looking to help your teen expand their skills on this year?
Perhaps this year they are responsible for their spending money or buying gas for their car, so learning how to better manage their money (or get a job) is on your list of topics. Or maybe last year overwhelm hit hard and they could use some help with how to differently manage their schedule so every night doesn’t become a stress-inducing panic about homework versus getting to bed at a decent time. What does your parent eye see could use some attention this year?
As the new school year kicks off, I’ve been thinking about this with my kids. What could be useful this year? What NEEDS to be discussed this year?
Then the day moved on with other commitments before I’d fully formalized my thoughts, so the original post I had in mind was put on the backburner.
Now I’m sitting back down to write after helping my younger kids with their homework and chores. And for one of my children, this afternoon’s homework session included tears. While he understood the general math concepts, specific details were being missed and thus answers weren’t “right” based on the wording of the question. He got frustrated and started to melt down.
This got me thinking. In moments like these, I’ve got an inner tug of war: Which direction to go?
Do I push, pointing out the errors and helping him determine what needs to be changed? I know he can do it. He’s figured out problems like this many times before. I also know we all need to learn about persevering when things get challenging. Part of maturity is taking responsibility for one’s work plus building up stamina, endurance, and mindset to keep trying when things get tough. No one always knows the answer and he will encounter plenty of tough times and situations in life that he’ll need to figure out. Heck, this is a situation to practice critical life skills!
I also know, if I’m honest with myself, that my old inner “A” student sometimes pipes up with a perfectionist attitude and fixed mindset: “This needs to be correct! Stay here until you get it right. Wrong is not an option.” Was I pushing from here? That’s about me and not him (and from a less than useful mindset I’m working on being aware of and changing when it shows up). I over-pushed with school and gymnastics plenty of times growing up and it never worked out well (hello, injuries and depression in college). I had to learn that sometimes taking a break and coming back later (or the next day or week) is the best thing, because nothing useful comes from the space of over-exhaustion (which we all do get to and that he might have been at after a day of school). Pushing here can end up dimming the inner pilot light to even want to try the next time, which I certainly don’t want.
In the end, I read the questions with him and tried to encourage him to look at what was being asked. I did want him to try a little more. After looking through a few of the problems with errors, there were more tears (and I could feel my frustration rising), so we put the math away and he moved onto reading. He said he understood what he’d done backwards when I did a quick math check in while he was updating his homework tracker at the end. We left it there and will try again tomorrow.
Was this the right way to go? I don’t know. There are probably lots of “right” ways I could have tried. What I do know? I’m practicing listening to his cues and encouraging him to stretch himself (because growth happens out of the comfort zone), while also checking in with myself and trying to be fair about my expectations (is fixed mindset “A” present?). That he finished his homework, over his tears and no longer upset? It feels like it was an okay balance of pushing, effort, and being done when needed for today. Tomorrow? We’ll see what is needed when we get there.
The dance of parenting our kids into adulthood so they have the skills they need to thrive while also learning not to burn out in the process — whoa — it is seriously not a joke. Parenting is hardcore, and the learning never stops for them OR us.
Looking back at my original post idea, yes — there are life skills I’ve got in mind to work on with all of my kids this year. Perhaps that post will come from my head to the page another day. But for today? I’m reminded that I’m still learning and growing and evolving, too. There is no “there” with life skills for any of us. We try the best we can and keep on learning. And — we’re all doing okay, in the biggest picture. And sometimes this reminder is needed, especially when things feel challenging.
In case you need the reminder today, you’re doing just fine. 🙂