As the new school year begins, a range of excitement to nervousness to blah-zaye fills the psyche of most returning school children.

Attitudes are brakes or running shoes.  Problem-solving requires an attitude of believing we can solve a problem. Developing confidence in problem-solving requires practice.  Rendering a child helpless because we rush to solve their problems does the child no favor.

I remember being 8 years old and telling my mother about a problem.    My mother had 5 kids in 6 years with a traveling salesman husband home only on the weekends, which probably explains her curt manner.

“Lori, are you a man or a mouse?” she asked before walking away.  I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but it seemed to vaguely force me to ask myself if I was going to be strong or weak.

To the Rescue

We love to rescue our children.  It’s natural.   When my daughter  Randi was 17, she had already worked at the local movie theatre for 3 years.  There was a new girl hired and Randi became caught in the middle of a teenager jealous of Randi’s platonic friendship with the girl’s boyfriend. To make a long story short, the girl accused my daughter of keying her parent’s car left overnight at the theatre parking lot when the girl was picked up to spend the night with the boy.  Someone keyed her car, it wasn’t Randi.  Not only did the girl lie and say she saw it was Randi, she told her parents, and her parents called the movie manager threatening to bring a lawsuit if Randi was not fired… so  THEY FIRED RANDI!!!   To say I was livid would be best described as I was a ripping tornado ready to tear, shred,  and pulverize that teenager and her parents before calling an attorney, the theatre manager, and tracking down the owner of the chain.

Stopped in my Tracks

Randi stopped me in my tracks.  She was devasted, hurt, humiliated, but somehow had the wisdom to forbid my involvement.  “Mom, look what happened because she got her parents involved.- I’m going to handle this. DO NOT GET INVOLVED.”  “But Randi, I know what to say and how to say it, let me get involved,” I growled like a lioness to her cub.

” No Mom.  Please.  DON”T GET INVOLVED, I’ll handle it.”  That was VERY VERY VERY hard, but I obeyed.   It became more important to honor her wishes in this horror story, to give her some sense of control in her first experience of deceipt, falsehood and very reactive parents.

Reinforcing What’s Right

Whatever attitudes you recognize in your children that are not productive ( easily discouraged when something’s hard, perfectionistic, procrastinator, not responding to a request on the 2nd-3rd-4th time), allow me to offer advice-not that you’ve asked!   Catch the child when those attitudes are positive, and state, ” You keep trying  until you get it right,  you remained calm when you could have become frustrated, you do not quit, you are a hard worker, you did what I asked the first time, you are sharing with your sister, you helped me and I didn’t even ask…..”   Reinforce the good. Call attention to appropriate responses.  Minimize your attention to negative behaviors. Say what needs to be said, then break eye contact and walk away. If there’s a discipline measure that is due, deliver it, don’t waver, don’t show sympathy, don’t mix messages.  Learn from me!  Don’t mix messages with a warm tone of voice!  Over saturating our child in sympathy pushes them more toward the mouse than the man!

How about a little language exercise?   Depending on age- either write or verbalize… What IS the difference between a man and a mouse?

The best time to suggest a child’s  “can do” attitude is bedtime.  Tuck them in and as they begin getting drowsy, suggest those positive statements. It takes root!