I must blend my personality, temperament, live story and professional training as a counselor into one role: dad. Ain’t easy.
This morning, my son and I were on the way to a local church that serves as the home base for his boy scouting troop. He’s in eighth grade and hold leadership roles with the troop. Yesterday, I gave him instructions that he was to pack for himself and stage his gear while my wife and I attended a high school football game at which my daughter was cheering.
I confirmed that he had a scout packing list for this camp out. I told him where the tent was and stated that if he had ANY QUESTIONS he should ask me. Just before my wife and I headed to the field, I told him that his gear must be staged by the fireplace by the time his mother and I returned from the game.
Nothing like parenting/teaching responsibility. I find that if I communicate what is expected clearly I feel better when I get pissed that he didn’t follow instructions. If I set the target out, walk him to it and then allow him to hit it, at least I am not holding him accountable for something of which he didn’t even know he was accountable. Parents, bosses, spouses who hold others accountable for “imaginary” or “assumed” targets are just bullies and people full of emotive and cognitive issues. At least in my book.
Upon return from the game, my son had hit the target. Or so I thought.
The next morning, early, not more than 1/2 a block from the house, I inquired, “Do you have a hoodie and rain gear?”
My son replied, “I think so.” Pregnant pause. “I think I packed it.”
“You THINK or you KNOW”, my voice becoming tense and my blood starting to curdle.
No response. Just worry. My son’s mind screaming internally in some sick soliloquy, “I am in trouble!”
I start to turn the truck around and “lecture” my son on being responsible by taking ownership of his packing job.
“No one will want to work with you if you are vague about whether or not you have accomplished a task”, my annoyance is rising. “Come on man, just own up to the fact that you forgot to pack these items.”
I am frustrated with his lack of responsibility and when asked about his packing job that he did not step up and own the moment.
“Dude, I forget stuff all of the time. I own that. Then I solve it and move on. What would have happened today if it rained and you didn’t have your gear? Or tonight when it is colder and you don’t have your coat.?”
Silence from the passenger side.
The tough part to the parenting role is teaching and encouraging when you are frustrated with a repeated actions of which your child appears to be stuck with.
I’m a dad to my son not a counselor. So, I allow my emotions to be more present at the surface of our little “chats”, which makes my tone a touch more stern and my lessons a bit more poignant than they would be if I were his counselor. As his parent, I want to focus on the behavior that is most critical: take responsibilities for mistakes, learning from them and then moving on.