Monday, May 20, 2013

What I Learned about Parenting from a Pepper Jelly Vendor

This weekend was one of those perfect spring weekends here in New England and I took advantage by attending a craft fair. I couldn't help but people watch as I saw vendors selling their crafts.

Some vendors were animated, waving me to their table to see their items. 

Some vendors sought out communication with their visitors, telling them stories and anecdotes about their products.

It was clear that some were interested in connecting and relating while others were not.

Some vendors didn't look up when I approached their table.

Some carried a bored expression when I approached, almost as if they were assuming I wasn't going to buy something.

One man stood out from the crowd.  He was selling pepper jelly, something I am sure very few came to the fair hoping to find.  Yet, his table was crowded as he engaged a group of visitors at his table.  He held a spontaneous game of truth or dare as he dared us to try his habanero jelly.
I wasn't brave enough to try the jelly but I did walk away with some talking points for all of you:
As parents, are you present for your kids?
Strange as it may seem, that pepper jelly was his "baby" and he knew every nuance about it.  It's important to know your kids.  Know their likes, dislikes, opinions, friends.  Know what they think about things. Staying present and attentive helps them shine.
Don't parent on autopilot. It was clear that for some vendors, selling their wares was so "been there, done that".  They seemed bored, disinterested.  Their bored expressions made me wonder how attentive they still were to their craft. My story was that they were just stuck with a stale formula that seemed to work.
The pepper jelly man was not stagnant. He kept trying new things, much like I encourage parents I work with to do.
     Bringing new ideas to the proverbial kitchen table helps parents tune in their kids. 
          It shows kids that their parents are paying attention. 
               It illustrates your investment as parents.
While some vendors wore expressions assuming no one was buying what they were selling, the jelly salesman acted with a positive attitude, as if he knew he'd make a sale.
Parents could learn a lot from him. So often, I see parents who move through their world assuming their kids will act out, do drugs, try something unsafe.  It is such a given for them that sometimes, they don't bother telling their kids what they want them to think.
Yes, it is natural and expected that kids and teens will test boundaries and limits.  It's almost in their job description.  That does not mean, though, that you stop telling them your values, what you believe and what you expect from them.
Yes, they may act out anyway but make the pitch.
Stay present.
Connect with them on your message
They may act disinterested.  They may walk away.  They will also remember and learn what you think and they may come back.  By staying silent, you almost force them to choose their own direction.
Stop that sabotaging behavior today. 

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