ME N MILEY

MielyTwerksEverybody was tweaked about Miley Cyrus and her apparently quite lucrative twerking display, but I see a far more interesting phenomena occurring on a daily basis.

I’m going to start at the beginning.

When I was a kid my parents would get angry at me for “showing off.”  In those days, showing off meant grabbing the attention of everyone at the party to show them something I could do that was really cool – like dangling a spoon from my nose.  Pretty harmless stuff, and usually the kind of action that stayed within the confines of our home, or the restaurant.  In my own world, I was famous for it.

Today, the world is TRULY a stage – and every person with a smartphone is a player.

This means that our children are bombarded by millions of people who are “showing off”… essentially sharing their special skill or an opinion, or something that they feel is important.  I’m much more tolerant of this than my parents were.  I’ve actually become convinced that it’s not such a bad thing.  In fact, in ElephantandDogmany cases, where people are demonstrating extraordinary skills, acts of kindness, or even expressing political points of view, we can find ourselves converging on these “memes” as a way of unifying ourselves as a society.  All of us have seen incredible videos… Russian Dashboard cams showing acts of kindness (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzBInt4zljQ) , or a video about randomly positive behavior (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F5lbMrCj80) and, of course, this 8 Million hit incredible father / son story – (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCAwXb9n7EY)

So what does this have to do with Miley Cyrus?

Miley’s been on the stage for a very long time, and she’s only twenty.  Her need to define herself, and move away from her Disney image, requires something radical. If Miley wants to twerk her way into heaven that’s her business, and she’ll have to explain it to her kids someday (which I hope she’ll do).  My objective, however, is to raise my kids to know that Miley isn’t yet the role model that her financial success and media exposure might indicate.

AtticusFinchSo, who are our kid’s most important role models?

We are.

Although I have occasionally twerked in our home, I’ve made a point of not doing it in public (which, I believe shows great impulse control) and I know my offspring are quite relieved about that.  How do I know?  Because, even though they are all now adults, we always shared our opinions of the world around us and listened to theirs.

familychainhandDiscussing bad behavior, when your child sees it or is exposed to it, is a very good way of defining your own parental expectations.  At this point, I can trust that my children are not impressed or influenced by bad behavior.  But, even when they were young and they saw a kid being a “poor sport” in Little League, or using foul language, they knew, from their relationship with us, that those behaviors were unacceptable.  This allowed us the comfort of knowing that they could process those images from a position of knowledge and comfort – rather from a place that, needing attention, mimics the noise of that kid on the field or popular cultural novas.

So… does Miley’s twerking bother me?  Not really.

mileyPrettyAs long as we’ve got “Toddlers and Tiaras”, “Dance Moms”, the “Real Housewives” of anywhere – shows that feature ridiculous adult behavior in a way that celebrates and enriches bad parents – Miley Cyrus will just be a kid showing off.

rollingstonesLogoThe Rolling Stones are famous for having coined the phrase, “You can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometimes, you just might find…you get what you need.”

When it comes to parenting, this is an important lesson. But can we make it consistent with our desire for our children to understand that they deserve the best life possible? Can we learn to say NO within the context of a larger YES?

We all know parents who give their children everything they want. They’re saying, “Life is tough enough. If I can give to my child, why shouldn’t I?”

Here’s why:  Someone’s got to teach them that things don’t always go their way.  Someone’s got to prepare them for the real world where peanut butter and jelly sandwiches don’t get served in their carpool.

Someone’s got to teach them that the bike they have is perfectly fine, or that a functional lunch box works as well as a new lunch box.

How can we explain the fact that other kids get everything they want?  JoAnn and I used to tell our kids that “That’s what other families do.  This is how we do things in our family.”  That principle can lead to some wonderful “teachable moments.” We, as parents, can explain why keeping up with fads is not that important to us. Buying “whatever” is expensive, for one thing. If we can save some money by avoiding that tendency, we can use it for other things. We might (for example) choose to give the money to the school, or to a charity, or just save it for something we really will use and enjoy.

UsedBicycleImageIn this way, we have the opportunity to teach our children about their own family’s values. This unites us as individuals in a family with shared beliefs and clear, understandable goals.  In a sense, it’s showing them that there’s a method to our madness: that we really are looking out for their best interests.  If we can explain why we aren’t willing to buy them whatever comes along, our children will hear something beyond the simple “no.” When we clarify the logic of our decision-making, we show our children that they’re important enough to be given an explanation. Kids want and deserve to be aware of the decision-making process. That’s why including them can create such teachable moments.

MaxNRegIn my book, I ask readers to look back on the way they were parented and to choose to do the things their own parents did right.  My father could have an explosive temper. But he always came back to me after an angry event and explained why he had gotten upset. It wasn’t necessarily an apology, but it was the lesson he meant to teach in the first place.  I felt loved after those conversations.

I didn’t always get what I wanted. But when my father explained why, that’s when I got what I needed.