Parenting is tough, especially when our child is unhappy and all we want to do is fix the problem.
That was the case on a recent ride home from lacrosse practice with my 11-year-old son, Brooks. Clearly, he was unsettled. I have been in enough car rides after sporting events to know when to keep my mouth shut and when to ask questions. My intuitive wisdom instructed me to remain silent, despite Brooks’ fidgeting in his seat and my fatherly desire to help him relieve his angst.
After we arrived home and ate a late dinner, Brooks finally shared his struggles with his lacrosse coach.
- He could not figure out why his coach refused to play him at midfield, his new favorite position, today.
- He wondered if he had played poorly at middie the prior practice, but he thought he had played well.
- He wondered what he should do to get more playing time at middie.
- He asked my wife and I if we thought his coach liked him, and if he was good enough to play midfield.
Question after question and thought after thought flowed out of his mouth, illustrating his agitated feelings.
Unfortunately, because I wasn’t seeing clearly in my desire to emotionally calm my son, I told him he was playing great and to not worry about his coach (as if telling anyone to not worry has ever been effective). My wife, Liz, and I even suggested he share his desire to play more at midfield with his coach.
I didn’t realize I missed it until the following morning.
I failed to see the connection between Brooks’ cluttered head, anxious feelings and subsequent low mood. Our conversation the night before was like the blind leading the blind—two cluttered minds searching for answers will not lead to clarity and wisdom.
What would I do differently? It is very hard to say after the fact, but . . .
First, I would be more aware of my own insecure feelings and lack of clarity. And, from this higher level of clarity, I would remind Brooks that his insecure feelings are a signal telling him to distrust/dismiss all of his thoughts and questions about his coach and his own playing abilities; we all have free will and can ignore any thought that enters our mind. I would also remind Brooks to eat his dinner, study for his test, take a shower, and go to bed. In other words, as one of my mentors, Garret Kramer, likes to say, I would tell him to stay in the game and proceed despite the swirling questions in his head and pit in his stomach.
Ultimately, there is no action step to change our mind-set or thinking. When our thinking is left alone, old thoughts exit, new ones enter, and our mood and mind-set naturally rise. This is the beauty of our self-correcting psychological immune system.
And this is a great parenting tip.
I would love to hear your thoughts-please comment below.
Thanks for reading.