The Swimming Pool Principle

This may come as a shock, but I was totally that bratty 15-year-old who thought that my parents knew absolutely nothing. I felt they understood nothing about me and never could. Is that normal? From what I hear, yes it is. Part of me is glad for that, so I don’t feel quite so bad about being such a horrid teenager. (I have four brothers and my mom keeps saying boys are SOOOO much easier than girls, especially as teenagers. Guess that implicates only me, with no sisters to share the blame!)

But the other part of me really hopes that it’s not normal. When I look at my sweet 7-year-old daughter, who keeps showering me with notes about how I’m the best mom, I wonder how much longer this will last. Sometimes I naively think that she’s just such a sweetheart through and through that she could never turn out to be like I was. I hate to think of her transforming into a sassy, entitled, know-it-all manipulator. Does expecting this to happen cause it, or just help you be more prepared when it inevitably becomes reality? I’m pretty sure that every child goes through something like this at some point, whether at 2 years old or 22 years old, but most often in the teen years.

So, parents, you might as well prepare for it. I’ve got a great tool that you can use pre-emptively. (I learned this from Ann Washburn, one of my mentors.)

swimmingpoolprinciple

Here’s how to use this graph: Before the age of 9, when your child still thinks you know everything, or at least a great deal, draw this graph out for him or her and explain what will happen. He or she may say something like, “Oh mom, I’ll never think you don’t know anything. You’re the best mom in the world! You’re amazing, and wise, and talented, and beautiful,” and on and on. Cherish that.

Fast-forward to when he or she is 13-16 years old, yelling, “You don’t know anything!” or something more fun than that. When your teen is calm and ready to listen, draw out the graph for them again. They will probably remember it. And when they do, inform them that what they are playing out is exactly what you had told them would happen. It will be hard for them to deny the fact that if something you predicted so long ago has now happened, you must know something. So maybe there’s other stuff you’ve figured out, too. Maybe this will cause enough of a paradigm shift to readjust their perspective on you and your parenting.

The green line on the graph represents where the dip might be if you use this tool. The child will still drop to a point where they think you know very little, but it might not hit rock bottom. I’d say that holding on to at least that much ethos during such difficult parenting years makes this tool worth using!

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