I feel like I have many passing mom things. Sometimes I’m the mom that manages to make my children find balance when it comes to outside play and video games, (and sometimes it’s outside only). Sometimes my mom thing ends up being summer lessons that I create for my children based on their academic needs, and sometimes we just sit at a pool all day and veg out. And sometimes my mom thing is to worry constantly about how my choices are affecting my children’s futures, or to just decide I’ll fix whatever I messed up tomorrow.
No matter what the “thing” is in any particular week, one constant is that I want my children to have the survivor mentality. As parents, we hear all of the time, “That’s not fair!” or “He got more than I did!” or “But I wanted that!” The complaining can be like nails on a chalkboard for most parents. As a mom, I really dislike these complaints. As a high school teacher, these complaints scare me more than they should.
Because we are realists in a modern, American society, we know our kids have it pretty good. My children, in particular, don’t struggle for their basic human needs. They have love, reassurance, discipline, attention, and stuff. I could go on and on about their stuff. So when my own children complain about what seems hard, or who got what and who didn’t, etc., it drives me a bit mad. Out of my three children, I have one kiddo who is definitely keeping score in life. Birth order enthusiasts would confirm that my middle child is just doing what is natural for middles to do, but I’m not satisfied with this. His boss won’t care that he was a middle.
You see, my mom thing is that I do not want my children to see themselves as victims. Victim mentality doesn’t get us more friends in life, better jobs, or better circumstances. It does the very opposite. Sometimes, I think being spoiled with all kinds of comfort can be working against us, but I don’t want them to suffer in any way. Still, a little realization that they have it pretty good would be nice.
First of all, by circumstance, they are the very opposite of victims to their surroundings. They may not have the fanciest house in the world, but they have a yard to play in and neighbors that love them. They may not have the newest clothes, but their clothes (almost always) fit, and they do the job they were designed to do. Victim thinking is toxic and passive all at the same time, and I am trying a new way to minimize it.
I want to raise my children with a survivor mentality. Call it grit or call it focus, the “can do” approach gets us way farther than the “I could have done, but _____ happened.” I’m a little extreme about this topic, because as a public school teacher, I see what victim mentality allows older kids to accomplish. I am constantly in conversations with kids that have circumstances like my children do. The victim mentality in this case is fun to tease them about. These kids also have what they need for happiness and survival, yet all they see sometimes is what they don’t have. It’s my job as the adult in the situation to let them see that they have things pretty good. In contrast to that, I see how hard life is for many of my students, but these are the students that would never complain. I see kids who do struggle for basic human needs, and I watch them survive beyond expectations daily. I admire their grit, and I want my children to have similar grit in life. I know my kids are pre-k-5th grade, but it has to start somewhere.
I’ve decided to focus on gratefulness with my adorable 2nd grader. I’ve begun to attempt to move my 7-year-old into the survivor mindset because I fear for him thinking that circumstances won’t be fair forever. We all know that there are times in life when nothing seems fair, but I want him to acknowledge the concrete and abstract things he does have; therefore, if 25-year-old him has a rough patch, he can tap into some skills to overcome his hardships. But he can’t do that if he feels like he is always the guy that didn’t get his.
My newest focus for him is that every time he mutters, “That’s not fair” I have him verbalize three things he’s thankful for or three things with which he is blessed. His answers have been so sweet, and he has no problem doing this. He answers this question by listing his dogs, his family, his Xbox, and his friends. Last night, when he complained about a dinner I made, I had him list the things he liked about the dinner. (This is my least favorite complaint after a day at work.) He said he liked that we were together eating it, he liked his strawberries, and “I guess I like the cheese, too.” He then ate the food without another complaint. Each time he is asked to make a list of his blessings, he answers differently. It’s too soon to tell if this will make him a survivor, but it has started to make him think twice about being a victim-it’s also very fun to listen to him explain what he sees as his blessings.
Each person has different experiences and circumstances in life, but we also all have things for which we can be thankful. I will continue with this mission, until it stops working to make my children count their blessings. And in turn, every time I get grumpy and complain, I will demand the same from myself. After all, people at any age can benefit from counting the sweet things in life.