My youngest child has the power to bring me to my knees with one whiny proclamation: “I can’t do it!”
This is usually followed by a stomp of the foot, a defensive crossing of the arms, and a pouty, ”humph” that sets my pulse pounding and my teeth gritting.
“Don’t say, ‘can’t’,” I fire back. “Try harder!”
I remember teaching this to my oldest child too, right along with ”Don’t give up” and ”Don’t bite your friends.” Over the course of the last 18 years, he has shown me on countless occasions that he has learned those lessons, and as frustrating as it is to hear the word “can’t” from a preschooler again, I’m pretty sure the almost-five-year-old will learn them too.
Now, however, I am wondering if I have followed my own advice. After a particularly insulting incident, I found myself fantasizing about the end of this current conflict. In my anger-fueled fantasy I lay out all the reasons I have been wronged and proclaim, ”I am raising my daughter to be a strong, independent woman who lives up to her potential, and I will not accept anything less for myself!” I turn from the room, slam the door and am greeted on the other side by the thunderous applause of everyone I have ever known and worked with.
But the question that haunts me now that I have come back to reality is have I really learned those lessons, and can I be the example I intend to be for my daughter? This realization calls for a refresher course on life’s earliest lessons.
1. Don’t Say Can’t – The reason “can’t” falls so easily from the Young Ones’ lips is because it so much easier than the alternative. To the not-quite-five demographic, hearing the words “you can do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be” are words of magic. The theory of just say you want it, and it will be yours is a lie. To get “it” or be “it” or do “it” requires hard work, so don’t say “can’t”; say “I will try harder.” If you can’t make the pedals on the bike move forward, push harder. Can’t form the letters of your name exactly right? Practice more. Can’t get people to attend your meetings? Give them an agenda, so they don’t think you were just playing with the schedule meeting function in the email system.
2. Don’t Be a Quitter – This is really “Don’t Say Can’t Part II”. A friend recently shared a meme on Facebook (those funny/inspiring/politically charged pictures meant to be liked and shared by every user of every social network on the world wide web) that showed a woman’s chiseled six-pack abs and the words, “Remember the girl who quit?…Nobody else does either.” I was sucked into the viral frenzy. Not only did I “like” it, I shared it with the rest of my friends, printed it and hung it on the whiteboard in my office. Quitting is admitting you can’t, and since you are not allowed to say “can’t” (see #1), it is impossible to quit. Quitting empowers those who strive to make us lesser than we intend for ourselves to be. Why empower someone else, when we should be empowering ourselves?
3. Learn to Make Friends – In preschool, making friends is easy. If you are willing to share your toys and don’t bite the other kids, you can have a posse equal to that of the hottest celebrities. It gets harder as we get older, and in the business world, we don’t so much “make friends” as we “network”. When I’m in need of anything work-related, I immediately scroll through my mental Rolodex of business associates, peers and mentors, looking for the ones with the greatest potential to help and advise me…and give a great reference should one be needed.
4. Do What I Tell You – This is the cause for most rebellion in children, but it is a necessary lesson because as those children enter the work force, if they don’t do what they are told in a manner that is expected of them, they will most likely be fired. However, in most cases, doing what you are told is not enough. You must do more and do it at a higher level than your peers. This is how you get promoted and how you ultimately achieve the fifth and most important of all life lessons….
5. DEMAND RESPECT – You have worked hard, never quit, networked with important people and achieved great results. NEVER let anyone take that away from you. Setbacks happen. Bosses change. Expectations are re-set. When this happens, go back to the beginning. Try harder. Never give up. Call on your friends for support and your mentors for advice. Then do what needs to be done…for you. Don’t let someone tell you you are less than who you are. Tell them who you are and why their disrespect is misplaced. Don’t whisper it. Say it loud for everyone to hear. You are a strong, independent woman who lives up to her potential, and you demand no less than RESPECT.
I will demand respect from those I work with, those I live with and those I love. I cannot accept less because that is not who I am, and that is not who I want my daughter to be.
Teach your children well…,and follow your own advice.