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Responding to Demands: Wanting A Widget V4

My nine-year old stepson declared some years ago, “I want a beyblade!” I wasn’t too inclined to comply with his request as he and his brother already had six of these spinning battle tops. But instead of saying ‘no,’ I told him he needed to sell me on his pitch.

Zach sat and thought and before I knew it, he was up on stage, performing. With his arms flying akimbo, he declared the importance of his beyblade. I repeated that l had no interest in funding him. So, he pondered, and added a new question, “What if I come up with a list of chores, so I could earn money?” I thought he’d offered an interesting idea. He then turned to his brother for support. And, lucky for him, his brother was on board and they both scurried off to the kitchen to see what ideas could come up with.

I got a kick out of this new-found energy. Once they’d completed their preliminary list, we reviewed and tweaked with the understanding they needed to pitch this to their Dad too. We had to make sure everyone was on board. We all agreed to the list and the dollar value for each chore. The boys also understood it was not my responsibility to make sure they did these chores. For the next week, every morning they were off to clean the baseboards, pull weeds, etc. I have to admit I did find it amusing at breakfast each morning to hear them discuss how they would pool their money and buy the best beyblades. After doing chores they proceeded to research their future purchases. By the end of the week they’d self-funded their growing collection.

How does this back-door approach to teaching skills to kids apply to teachers and parents? Our goal is to raise adults, which means there are many skills along the way our kids need to learn. When your child or teen is driven by the idea of what’s in it for them, everyone is more likely to achieve what they want.

For instance, Jim Carey has a great a great story about a strategy used by one of his teachers to minimize classroom disruptions. Jim was the class clown. Needless to say, his focus on making classmates laugh could render classroom management a little difficult. So, his teacher cut a deal. She told Jim if he completed his work and stayed quiet, he could have a few minutes at the end of every class to do a comedy routine. Both teacher and Jim got what they wanted. The teacher had fewer classroom disruptions and Jim Carey had the opportunity to make people laugh at the end of class.

Another challenge of being a parent is the need to be in multiple places at the same time. One teen wants to go to the amusement park with his friends; his brother wants to play tennis on the other side of city. Even if Mom is willing to drop everyone off she’s not able to pick everyone up at the same time. Luckily, this family lives right by a bus stop, so the parents decide it’s time to train their son to take the bus. Together they map his journey, have him figure out the cost, and teach him to navigate Union Station. Even though both parents might be secretly worried, Dad goes to his appointment and Mom pretends to work. She keeps an eye on the time imagining where he is while she waits for those texts letting her know when he makes it to the first bus. No shocker here. He isn’t exactly diligent about his texting. Mom doesn’t get much done that evening as she quietly paces and grows another grey hair. But when she sees her son — and discovers how proud he is of his accomplishment in getting home— she knows it is worth every worry to watch him gain a little independence.

Raising kids and teens is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs there is. We are raising future adults, who will be making a place in the world.  By re-framing life’s lessons for our children so they see what’s in it for them and then collaborating on solutions, we can make the process more productive and maybe even a little more fun. The second challenge for parents is letting their kids and teens put the plan into action by stepping back and letting them own the great, the good, and the not-so-pretty.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

About The Author

Roxanne Turner is a Board Certified Life Coach with extensive training in ADHD and executive functioning, focusing on the process of getting things done. Roxanne brings a unique and personal perspective to her coaching work drawing from her experience in both the corporate and equestrian worlds. Outside of work, Roxanne is a devoted wife and step-mother to two teenage boys and enjoys time spent with family, the outdoors, and pursuing epic adventures.