Inside: Do you have a kid who takes herself a little too seriously? This parenting strategy can help!
As a child/adolescent/teenager I was kind of a pain.
Not in the “always in trouble” sense, but actually just the opposite.
I got good grades (on the extra homework I requested), I was really into extracurricular activities (as in ran between club meetings in my soccer cleats while simultaneously doing a mental run-through of pageant choreography), and I kept my nose squeaky clean.
For instance, I was the 16-year-old who called my mom to pick me up from a party because there was alcohol there. I wasn’t even drinking it, I was just uncomfortable with the idea of being in the same zip code as underage drinking.
All in all, I was a straight A high achieving “seriously, girl can you just chill for a second?” kind of kid and while thats fine, there was some serious potential for me to take myself far too seriously and to get an inflated gold star induced ego.
Pressing the Reset Button
So one day my parents had a little chat and decided that they were going to alter their parenting strategy – making the shift from supportive and loving to supportive and loving with a hint of “take her down a peg.”
They figured if I wasn’t going to get myself into any trouble and insisted on being involved in trophy related activities I was going to become an insufferable ball of perfectionism and anxiety and start being super annoying to share meals with.
So while I ran around collecting awards, my parents made it a point to remind me about the times I had screwed up, but in a funny way. As a result, my most vivid memories of my youth are the times when my common sense flew the coop. Not necessarily because the moments were all that life-changing but because the stories were told repeatedly at family gatherings, the grocery store, the bank, the weekly Tuesday public forums convened to discuss my shortcomings, et cetera, et cetera.
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One
To be clear this is not a knock on my parents. Not at all. Their strategy really worked and I’m (mostly) tolerable now because I know deep down in my heart that I’m just not that special of a snowflake.
With their help, I learned to laugh at myself, a lot.
Because when the story about the time you were asked to put a small potted plant into the shade on a hot summer day and you decide the best way to accomplish that is to drag the 11-foot picnic table it is sitting on across the length of the lawn is told and retold, you kind of have to laugh. Or when everyone gets to hear the story about the time you were sarcastically asked “What is going to happen to the popsicles if you leave them outside in July?” and you reacted by putting them in the shade, you realize you might be smart, but not THAT smart.
(Why are so many of my stories about not understanding the sun?)
Oh! And there was the time my popcorn didn’t pop enough in the microwave so I decided to close the bag back up and pop it again. But I couldn’t find any tape, so I used a pen to close the bag, by folding the two sides of the bag together and jabbing the pen through. A pen, with a metal cap. That I put back in the microwave…
(I wasn’t as young as you want me to be in any of these stories.)
Living, Loving, Laughing
I genuinely enjoy these stories though because their repetition taught me something I could never have learned in school – I’m not perfect and I never will be no matter how pretty the report card looks, and that’s a good thing! To this day, I’m most comfortable in my own skin, and having the most fun, when I’m laughing and often that means laughing at myself.
Life is a lot more fun when you don’t take yourself too seriously, and if I can teach my children one thing it would be to laugh at your missteps and mistakes. Of course, try your best, be kind, and follow your dreams and all, but for heaven’s sake if you fall down rub some dirt on it, and maybe even turn that fall into an uncomfortable-looking attempt at a somersault so you can get more mileage out of the story.
This same lesson gets passed along to my career coaching clients too. It seems counterintuitive in a field that seems to be about confidently telling your story to get a job. There’s so much more to it though! Career development is about finding a place where YOU can thrive, the full imperfect you. It’s about learning and growing, and that means admitting where you’ve failed and not letting those mistakes get you down. Laughing at yourself takes confidence, and I want my clients to have that confidence in spades!
I want you to have that confidence too. So start laughing, friends. It will take you places.