Make Good Choices

Make Good Choices

Make good choices, Dear!It started out as a joke – of sorts. I would loudly exclaim “Make good choices!” as I would drop her off somewhere, or as she left the house, ensuring all her friends heard me.

Yeah, it was embarrassing in the beginning, but my daughter ultimately embraced it. Often before I could get the words out, she’d turn back to me and say “Yeah, I know. Make good choices. I’m on it.”

Over time, it became our little joke with a wink and a nod. She’s taken to telling me to make good choices when I’m heading out, too. Make good choices. It’s just a thing, right?

It was just a thing until she’s becoming more of an adult – more the age I was when I didn’t make good choices. Now, more than ever,

those choices are important.

Really important.

The Same Mistakes

I sure wasn’t perfect. I did make some mistakes; I made not-good choices as a teenager. The usual: smoking, alcohol, sex, socks with sandals.  OK, not that last one.

I’ve had the talks with my daughter, but ultimately, I know some things are learned from experience. We can tell our kids drugs are bad until we’re blue in the face, but they’re statistically still likely try something at some point. They’ll learn from it, just like we did, and we can hope it isn’t a life-long burden.

All mistakes teach a lesson – if you’re willing to look for it. But, it seems, I’m hyperfocused on my daughter not making that one “mistake I made” –  that BIG one mistake.

I'm 20yrs old here... and that's mine.For me, I don’t want my daughter to be a teenage parent. She’s made it past the age her mother got pregnant, but as she approaches the age I was when she was conceived, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve had enough talks with her. Each time I say “Make good choices,” I can’t help but want to add “…and by that I mean don’t get pregnant, OK?”

At this age, though, how much does that old paradigm ring true? Is it still the more you tell them not to do something, the more they want to do it?

No Answer

It turns out, there is no “enough” times. What it really boils down to is being a good example.

Enough is not taking a drag of a cigarette while you’re telling them not to smoke. It’s not cracking a beer open when you tell them the demons of alcohol. It’s not leaving a box of condoms out in the open…

Wait! It IS leaving a box of condoms out!

Crap. Which is it?

Our Good Choices

As our kids “come of age” to start making these choices in their own life, it seems even more imperative that we back up our talks when they were younger with our own actions, now. It’s really hard for us to believe someone telling us not to do something when we see them doing it, right?

What’s the first thing you think when a Police Officer passes you on the highway at a good 20 clicks over the speed limit, then exits without a turn signal?

The same goes for our kids.

The “do what I say, not what I do” times are over. They’re paying attention… and here’s the catch. They’re no longer trying to be like us. They’re looking for excuses to justify behavior that’s either easier or “cooler” for them.

Getting Through to Them

I think there’s a way to keep us from sitting up at night creating impossible scenarios where our children are doing amazingly stupid things; things so stupid they’re found on the Internet, while not being so overbearing.

It comes in the form of honesty and humility – in talking to them like they’re an individual and not just your child.

  • Tell them it was a mistake.
  • Tell them you made it.
  • Tell them, you regret it.

For those of us where our “mistake” was naively marrying the wrong person or having a child too young, we can’t forget to remind them that they’re a beautiful and important part of our lives, but that the decision we made created head – and heart – ache.

It’s Always Something

Pick thrown into the audience.At a conference a few weeks ago, a presenter began with the same story I started this article with. “I used to tell my daughter to make good choices…” I couldn’t help but howl! There was another parent, exactly like me.

Then I realized, this is a universal parenting thing: we just don’t want our kids to “make the same mistakes” we did. In fact, we don’t want them to make mistakes at all. But, honestly, we made mistakes… and we turned out fine, right?

Oh… OK… yeah, I see why we do it.

Buttballs

I was eating out the other day with my daughter and there was a baby wailing away at the table across from us. The parents were doing their best to coddle the child until the bill came, but it was causing a bit of a scene.

My daughter looked at me and said “I so don’t ever want kids. I just don’t like babies. They’re like little… little… buttballs.”

I have no idea what a “buttball” is, but I’m happy as a clam that having a kid isn’t on her radar!

It doesn’t stop me from wondering if I talked to her enough about safe sex. Maybe one more conversation…

Sigh… maybe not. It’s her choice, now.

Making good choices,

Now, you can follow my shenanigans on Twitter.

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Comments

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3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    David Delp July 29, 2014

    “Make good choices” I think just starts with actually making the choice instead of just reacting, trying to please, trying not to be rejected. I talk to my daughter regularly about my choices and what it feels like to experience the unintended consequences. She’s a teenager so all conversations are open for discussion. She’s way past the safer sex talk, which in her school started in 5th grade, and the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” to drugs is laughable. For that conversation, it’s more like, “if and when you try drugs, please do it safely.” I don’t encourage drug use because teenage brains are so much more prone to damage than adult brains, and I tell her that too, but if she wants to experiment, I’d rather she do it at home where she’s safe.

    I think at this point, the good choices I wish for her are the ones in which she feels informed and empowered and responsible to negotiate the risks that come with any difficult choice. I told her when she turned 13, “As a teenager your job is to gain your freedom. To do that you need to earn my trust, and to do that, just take on bigger and bigger responsibilities, and show me you are doing your best to make good choices with them.”

    She’s mostly done with me now. I’m lucky she’s done her work. Her freedom is my biggest gift.

  2. Avatar
    Stu July 30, 2014

    Thanks for the comment, David! That’s a well-stated way to encourage your daughter to take responsibility for herself and her life. It’s way more concise than the non-sense I fumbled through with my daughter. Where were you 5 years ago?

    I trust you’ve followed her’s school’s “safe sex talk” with talks of your own. I’ve been focusing on the love & sex connection and the deeper stuff. Not sure it’s sinking in.

    -Stu

  3. Avatar
    David August 01, 2014

    Actually, I don’t talk about safer sex with her. At this point she’s more comfortable talking to her mom about it so I talk more about the difference between caring for someone (love) and lusting. I think both are awesome, and neither require sex or vice versa. -D

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