In the dictionary there are over 28 definitions for the word “cool.” But certainly, among people there are far more than that. It is almost impossible to teach a child to do something that is completely subjective. But, let’s not kid ourselves; there are some things that hands down radiate “cool” and most all lead back to one word: confidence.
If you are confident, completely at grips with a task or way, odds are you are going to be “cool” performing (or just being) to someone else, somewhere who is less comfortable with that task or way. And I totally believe this is something that can be taught one thing at a time.
And if this is a newsflash, “cool” truly has nothing to do with what you wear, what you look like, what music you listen to, or what hobby you select…it is 100% learned confidence. Of course, to go about teaching confidence is like eating an elephant in a day and cannot be done overnight. It is a lifestyle of choices. And these choices, a parent teaches whether they mean to or not.
Kids can be taught to do almost anything. But, the older they get, they do begin to question or seek the reason. If they have a good reason and they believe it, it will likely take stronger root in their heart and they will become a champion of it. Clearly state why you believe what you are asking. You don’t owe your kids an explaination, but it is respectful to offer your motive to those you love and trust and helps make them a believer. If I say, “Be kind because you would want others to be kind to you. It’s courteous and everyone likes someone courteous.” I am teaching my kids “cool” by offering a social reason that this behavior is better than what they have chosen.
For example, I can say “Be Kind” all day long, but if I never offer a reason to be kind…eventually, kindness may not carry so much weight. Taken to another extreme, if I never told my children to be kind, why would they ever think of it? Have you ever read “Lord of the Flies?” – just kidding (William Golding, 1959) Ultimately. it is not only what you say, but what you do, as a parent. (Darn, I was hoping to escape that one, too!) In comes example…
Whether we do it consciously or not, we are teaching our children our personal definition of cool, by example. And if we want them to be comfortable and confident with a way of life we cannot demonstrate, odds are, they won’t. They may be able to put up the act, but it will probably crumble with time. Ultimately, no matter what I say will not be believed by my kids – or repeated with deep rooted conviction – as they age, if I do not live it.
If you think it is cool to not smoke, for example, smoking would be a really poor thing for you to do to instill this belief in your kids.
If we want our kids to be confident doing something, we need to display confidence doing that very thing. In some instances, kids display natural gifts in things we have no idea how to do. But even in those instances, if the parent is supportive by example, it gives the child strength to flourish and cherish their gift. That comes in the form of making their gift a priority…driving to the games 3 times a week, insisting on practice at home etc.
I believe kids can learn from extremes – like digging in and doing the exact opposite because they loathe the way their parents do it, but it is probably rarer and much harder than simply mimicking someone they love who acts with conviction.
Conviction is Contagious
As parents, if we are convicted about something our value system is easily transferrable to our children if shared in love. Many athletes have children that value athletics. Pet lovers generally raise kids that love animals. Health conscious adults often have children that will remain health conscious throughout life. So it goes with religion and politics. Parents are a very strong influence and can create unshakable truths in children with consistency and repetition.
So, if “cool” to you, as the adult is to love animals odds are your children will be comfortable and confident with that task…and they will look cool doing it – because it is second nature. They know it and believe in it 100%.
If personal grooming is important to you, and appearance is a driver in your definition of cool, odds are, your kids won’t miss your take on it. They may go another direction, but they will probably be very confident with the grooming direction they go…and therefore, cool (maybe not to you, but someone…somewhere. Ha)
“Not Cool!” my husband recently said to my son in a concise verbal correction after he did something rude. This absolutely screams our definition of cool to our son. Cool is not being rude! We have to correct with conviction if we want our kids to buy into our values.
If you let things go, as a parent, your kids will let it go. In our home, interrupting is uncool. Therefore, to teach kids to hold their thoughts and wait to speak is something we have to insist upon and correct. If we let that go, we just totally lose out on teaching cool. We lose and raise impatient morons who aren’t cool because they interrupt others.
With all correction, it is extremely important to focus on the action and not the child. Saying, “You are an idiot.” Is very different than saying, “You know I think you are cool and I am going to love you no matter what. But that situation could have gone a lot better if you had made different choices.” Then, move to specifics and move on. Clear, concise and over. If you don’t correct your kids, life will. And honestly, I would rather learn in love.
Lastly, we affirm what is cool to our kids to our kids through praise. When my son acts cool, I say, “You acted really cool back there when you…” With kids, it is important to be specific. If you liked one action better, call it out. Often, by calling out cool behavior and ignoring poor behavior we are affirming what is “socially adept” and don’t even have to move to correction, or statements that could damage their self esteem.
Confident kids are cool and that is the bottom line. What the kids are confident with is going to reflect you good or bad, cool or not. So take care when they are young and moldable to show them cool by example and give them a reason to act and shine. Share your convictions and correct them when they are off, you are the parent. But most of all, never miss the chance to praise those little suckers so they feel 100% comfortable with the skin they’re in!