My children know what a sucker I am for personality tests, organizational training or any other such management mumbo-jumbo. I can't help it. I love trying to figure out how people work best and how our natural inclinations feed (or foil) our best intentions. So I couldn't resist when I discovered the Positive Impact Test. No one even batted an eye at my house when I suggested we take the test on strengthsfinders.com--even if it was meant for corporate execs and not necessarily mothers and children.
The Positive Impact Test is based on Tom Rath's book How Full is Your Bucket. The test (designed for adults) measures your recent positive interactions as well as how often you engage in habits that naturally contribute to the lives of people around you. The premise is that all day long we engage in activities, attitudes or postures that either increase other people's sense of well-being or we take away and that people enjoy life most when their "bucket" of positivity is full to overflowing.
We took turns taking the test half-serious but also a little curious. Was there anyone in this house with a penchant for creating positivity? No one was too sure, but everyone wanted to find out.
I won't reveal who scored what but I will say our struggles/triumphs with making a positive contribution were well-distributed across the continuum. We nodded in solemn agreement when one person in our family, notorious for almost never making eye-contact, had to answer "strongly disagree" to the statement about smiling at people you meet. We moaned in protest when another person, famous in our house for issuing blistering critiques tried to score "strongly agree" on the statement about freely extending recognition of others. And we each gave ourselves high marks for the declaration about enjoying being around positive people. At least we're all on the same page there!
Sitting with our scores and sparing with another about our varying results, I wondered if a simple online quiz would get these kids thinking about their interactions. At eight and eleven, it's a veritable miracle that they don't fight twenty-four hours a day, though the negativity between them seems to be increasing as the developmental gap widens between them with age. "Is this just a ploy to get people to be nicer?" the older, more savvy customer asked. "Aren't I nice enough already?" said the younger who took his test with his customary breeziness and honesty.
And herein lies the rub.
Kids are asked all the time to be nice which often looks more like being inauthentic, faking it or going through the motions. And being nice doesn't require that you be honest--in fact, the opposite is most often true. Being nice can absolutely be an exercise in sparing people from the truth, especially if exposing the truth adds a layer of complication to your relationship that you'd rather not deal with.
Knowing how to be positive and how to recognize the positive things unfolding around you is a skill that anyone can develop--and it doesn't require you to cover anything over or pretend that difficulties or complications do not exist. It's about taking on a perspective that helps you stay hopeful. It's about recognizing how your take on things can help (or hurt) other people in their attempt to stay hopeful, too.
"I don't think it's about being nice," I told them both. "It's more about understanding that having a positive outlook on what's happening can help you and that talking that way helps other people, too."
What do you think? Are you teaching your kids to be nice or to be positive? Do you think you can find a way for them to be authentic and honest (especially about elephants in the room) in the process?
It started innocuously enough. Or not so much. The boys began playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii across the street. One thing led to another and they were in possession of two very exciting "life savers" as Christmas presents from the more-evolved neighbors across the street. No manner of "light saber" correcting worked. Harrison called it a "life saver" so it was a life saver. I'm sure on more than one occasion, Luke Skywalker would agree.
Ethan realized just a few days ago that we happened to have all six Star Wars episodes on DVD. The sequels, the prequels, I have no idea. Don't get me wrong. I have seen them all but calling the Empire Strikes Back episode V just seems wrong (Sorry, George Lucas).
I put my foot down (or so I thought). "No Star Wars. I don't think it's appropriate for you boys. You are nearly 3 and 5. And frightened by yelling on Arthur. How can you stand the drama of Star Wars?" This, of course, was only partially true. Nate is fearful of nothing but he is 3. It just isn't right.
Somehow this was not properly communicated because I came in on New Year's Day after making coffee to find my husband and three boys watching Star Wars, A New Hope. The baby? Crawling around on the floor as the sound of Jedi knights fighting someone or something corresponded with my Jedi knights going to town on each other as they jumped from the couch to the ottoman with "life savers" a-blazing.
I looked at my husband as if he had lost his mind. He jumped in with a "I think it's fine." Episodes 5 and 6 later and no one seemed horribly worse for the wear. I did get poked in the face with a light saber gone wrong but no one seemed frighted and that Han Solo is a pip. We agreed that Episode 3 was definitely out (too dark) and episodes 1 and 2 didn't even hold their attention. Old school it was. We were in vacation mode, it was bitterly cold outside and I figured television detox could begin on Monday morning.
Good move or bad move to let the kids watch it? Feel free to let me have it. Or my husband, since it was really his fault.
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
I'm always torn by New Year resolutions. On the one hand, it seems like the natural time to work on something in your life and on the other they always seem to be some sort of set up for personal failure. I went back and forth in my parenting mind if I should even bring the subject up with the kids who completely live in the moment anyway but Jorge unintentionally decided for me at dinner the other night.
"So guys, do you think our family should have any New Year's resolutions this year?" he said.
"What's a New Year's revolution?" Jack replied.
We both laughed and Jorge went on to explain. Instead of the usual set up for personal development he framed it a little differently by asking the kids if there was anything new they think we should try together, or anything different they wanted to be part of our family life. I was sure someone would insist we should get another dog and I would be toast but surprisingly they got the whole concept.
"I think we should be outside more, that should be our revolution. " Jack said.
"That's perfect because we just ordered the new trampoline today that Marmie and Opa gave you for Christmas." I returned.
"And I want to ride bikes with papa now that his knee is better." Josiah piped in.
So right there at the dinner table, we crafted a plan for our Salgado family outdoor "revolution". Here are few things I learned in the process.
Keep it positive. I think I would have just said, "We should exercise more, don't you think?" Jorge's approach to "enhance" our life instead of "fix" it made the invitation/goal feel more positive and attainable.
Brainstorm together. Letting the kids direct the idea gave them ownership and investment in its success. It also leaves the door open for further development down the road if this plan doesn't really work and we need to come back to the drawing board.
Keep it simple. Being outside together is pretty general, there are about a million things to do outside. This leaves our options wide open and makes it easy to add to our everyday lives.
Create a visual. Get a large roll of paper and markers. Write or draw pictures of all the ideas or things you want to try in creating your revolution. Hang it on the back of a door you open and close a lot in your house to remind you of all that is possible.
We'll see how it works out over here, I promise to let you know if our resolution turns into a totally (as Jack says) revolutionary idea. What do you think about kids and resolutions? Do you do them for yourself? Do you think they are a teaching opportunity or a waste of time?
Let us know in the comments.