A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine who is a high school teacher was looking for a speaker to come in and talk to her Intro to Psychology class.
This is a section of the population I don’t have much experience speaking to.
I’ve spoken for groups of moms and dads. I’ve spent plenty of time speaking with younger kids as both a teacher and a coach.
But the high school crowd is uncharted territory for me.
So I jumped at the chance.
I want to build up my public speaking resume, plus any opportunity to speak is good practice.
So I jumped on it.
My friend asked me to talk about parenting and discipline.
Much to my disappointment and like I often do, I waited until kind of the last minute to really think about what I wanted to say.
I thought I’d have most of last night to really think about it, and then on a whim, I decided at the last minute to take Number 4 to watch the girls high school Class M state championships because our high school had a shot at winning for the first time ever.
We didn’t get home until after 11 pm, and then I had to get the kids to school this morning and be at the high school at 8:45 for the presentation at 9.
I was on a panel with three other men.
One was a doctor who worked for DCF. One was a pediatrician. (Another doctor). One was the principal of the school. (Another guy). And then there was me.
The presentation was in the library, and the four panelists sat in the front of the group seated behind two tables.
I was on one end of the panel.
The doctor from DCF was sitting on the other end, and he spoke first about what he does professionally and how he has to handle discipline with regard to the clientele he has to work with.
Then the pediatrician spoke about himself a little bit and what he does in his job, and he addressed the child development stages kids go through, and what it’s important for parents to remember about where teenagers are developmentally.
Then the principal spoke, and he focused mostly on discipline with respect high school students and his job as principal.
And then it was my turn.
I’m not a doctor. And I’m not a dude.
I wanted to be taken seriously, but I also wanted to be interesting and engaging.
Last night on the ride home from the swim meet, I was telling Number 4 how I had to speak to a bunch of high schoolers this morning and I really had no idea what the heck I was going to say.
Her words of advice?
Well, I’m not a parent, so I don’t really know what to tell you. But you need to be cool. Well… not really cool. But, you know…. You can’t be boring. Just make sure you aren’t boring, Mom.
So when my turn came, I thought about what Number 4 said the night before.
I briefly explained a little bit about myself… 7 kids. Swim coach. Former teacher. Blah blah blah.
Then I talked about how being a parent is challenging because the longer you are a parent, the more stuff you realize you don’t know. And that if you really want to be a good parent it’s not about not failing, but it’s about constantly having to self-reflect, and to evaluate what you are doing that is working and continuing to do that while also figuring out what doesn’t work and then working to change that.
That self reflection piece is hard. And exhausting.
Because it never ends.
And then, I thought about what Number 4 said again.
Just make sure you aren’t boring, Mom.
I explained that one of the reasons discipline can be so challenging is because you are always confronted with situations you’ve never been in before, and there is no specific manual explaining how to deal with them in a healthy, respectful, and effective way.
(By the way, the way I’m writing this now is coming out much more intelligently and fluidly than the way I actually said it today).
Anyway, I thought of this story which happened recently at home. I shared it on Facebook a couple days ago, but sometimes Facebook doesn’t show stuff to people.
It was a great example of how you can never be prepared for all the things your kids are going to do and say:
So I don’t know about your kids, but my kids can really get on each other’s cases and they are relentless, and it drives me insane.
It seems to happen most often when they are sitting to eat.
One thing I started doing when they really start to go at it is take a “compliment break.” I give each one of them a complement, and it kind of diffuses the situation, and I’m not losing my shit on anyone but modeling being kind, so it’s a win-win.
Very often, they will give me a compliment back. If I’m really lucky, they will also decide on their own to give each other a compliment!
So today Number 4, 5 and 7 were sitting at the counter in the kitchen eating their lunch, and Number 5 and 7 got into it. And they wouldn’t stop.
And this is the conversation that followed:
Me: You know what time it is?!?!
Number 7: NO MOM! IT’S NOT COMPLIMENT TIME!!!
Me: It is for me! Number 4, you did a great job at middle school swim team try outs today. Number 5, you waited really patiently on the pool deck this morning. I know you were hot and it was boring. Good job! Number 7, you are so good at tying your shoes now! I am so impressed with how quickly you learned to do that.
Number 4: Thanks, Mom. I have a compliment for you…
You are really good at making grilled cheese!
Me: Thank you, Number 4.
Number 7: OKAY MOM! I have a compliment for Number 5.
Me: Great! What is it?
Number 7: Number 5! You are really good at being A PENIS, A BUTTHOLE, AND A VAGINA!
Upon hearing Number 7 ‘s compliment, Number 4 snarfed grilled cheese and apple cider out of her nose, I involuntarily burst into uncontrollable laughter, and Number 5 ran out of the kitchen crying hysterically.
Sometimes the compliment thing really works.
Other times? Well, other times, yeah.
Not so much.
All I can say is that as far as the high school students went, that little scenario was a crowd pleaser.
When in doubt, go with the penis, butthole and vagina stories.
Professionally speaking, I don’t know what the two doctors and the principal thought about it.
And I don’t know if I taught anyone anything about discipline.
But there are a couple things I do know for sure.
One, I think I might be the first mom to yell out the words penis, butthole, and vagina in that library. Or in any high school library in Connecticut, for that matter.
And two, I did what Number 4 said.
And I definitely wasn’t boring.
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