But Not a Pet Pig

Problems ‘n Pigs ‘n Plain Common Sense

Life’s problems, puzzles and predicaments don’t come when we’re all set and braced and ready to deal with them. Nuh uh. They almost always come tippy-toeing up on our blind side and give us a quick kick or two before we even know what’s happening. And then without thinking, we’ll usually react to that kick, that sneak attack, with an instant, flat-footed response that may or may not make things better.

How many problems might we have defused, you and I, if we’d only paused an extra moment or two before jumping on it from the wrong foot. Just pausing and using a bit of forethought could prevent a lot of the fallout that comes from reacting before we’re ready.

In this week’s guest article, Ken Hawk tells how a friend’s daughter fell in love with a pet pig, wanted to take it home, but then “talked Mom out of it.”

Every Problem Contains Its Own Solution

by Ken Hawk of   SBNR.com

“Here’s the indisputable truth: Whether as “children” or “adults”, we’re going to learn that for every decision we make, there are consequences that will naturally flow from it.”

A friend of mine and her 16-year-old daughter went to the regional flea market where thousands of people gather at the “1st Monday” Market every month. While there, her daughter saw (and fell in love with) a baby pot bellied pig that was for sale. “Oh Mom, I WANT it!” was the chorus for the day. At that moment, several thoughts ran through my friend’s mind. First, there were a thousand different reasons why there was no way that pot-bellied pig was coming home with them. She also had to figure out how to keep that pig from riding home. Was she, as “Mom”, going to nix the idea – thereby making her the “bad guy” in the eyes of her teenager? If she chose this, then surely the focus would shift away from the wisdom of the idea in the first place and toward her being the worst mom ever!

Then it dawned on her:  She knew that there were sound and valid reasons not to have a pig:  The family traveled a lot for sports, her daughter was busy after school and on weekends, and even if they wanted that pig, there wasn’t enough time or manpower in their household to tend to a pig the way a pig needs tending. All she had to do now was effectively communicate these reasons to her daughter and surely her daughter would form the same conclusion.

So that’s what happened – she asked her daughter some questions designed to paint this picture. Who was going to care for the pig when the family was out of town? Who would be responsible for the pig when the daughter was out late at practice? Who would take the pig to the vet? Who would pay for the vet? Who would pay for its food? Before too long her daughter saw the writing on the wall and was, in fact, the first to state the obvious. “Mom, this is the cutest pig ever – but there’s no WAY we can get it”. This was music to my friend’s ears. She had been able to raise the awareness in her daughter’s mind of the consequences of getting the pig without actually getting the pig! The decision had made itself. “Honey, you’re probably right”, was all that Mom had to say.

This is no less true for us. One winter morning we were walking out the door to run errands. We told everyone to get their coats on. Our then nine-year-old son said he didn’t want to bring his coat, so we reminded him that, while it was warm inside, it was a lot colder outside. He said that was okay with him, he didn’t think he’d need it. Knowing we were only going to be gone for only an hour – hence no real danger, we overcame the urge to react as our parents did and to command him to get the coat. Instead, with love and understanding, we simply said, “OK”.

Within the hour he was miserably cold and let us know about it in no uncertain terms. We intentionally avoided even a hint of “I told you so” attitude, but instead were compassionate to his circumstances. We reminded him that we had asked him to bring his coat and explained that we did so because we honestly didn’t want him to be cold. What happened next was called “learning”. He said, “You were right. I should’ve known when you asked me to bring a coat that you knew something I didn’t.” To this day, he has never failed to bring a coat when asked

Here’s the indisputable truth: Whether as “children” or “adults”, we’re going to learn that for every decision we make, there are consequences that will naturally flow from it. We all make decisions every day that affect our lives. Some call these decisions the “cause” of things that happen (or do not happen), and they call the resulting consequences, the “effect”. Those that become skilled at seeing the relationship between decisions and their probable consequences become more skilled at, and more comfortable with, guiding themselves through life, because they know that they actually have at least some control over what happens in their lives. It’s the old, “I do this … one, two … and then there’s that, three … four …”

We say that the greatest training ground for seeing the “decision/consequence or cause and effect” relationship is found when parents practice letting kids make as many decisions for themselves as possible. Start with the minor ones and let them move on to the decisions of greater significance. Sometimes the decisions will turn out good and sometimes not. Either way, there’s learning going on. Obviously, this, as in all things, is where context is king – it’s not always wise to turn children loose with decisions that can risk life and limb – but then again, well, you get the point.

So let’s help make these “little ones [kids] into big ones [adults]” by letting them practice making their own decisions as early as possible. After all, it’s a skill they’ll use throughout their lives, so you may as well teach them this skill early on.

This guest article by Ken Hawk of   SBNR.com

Back to Charles:

One of the takeaways I got from this is that we don’t have to jump in and solve all problems instantly. And if other people are involved, it may be better if we don’t try to take over and “be the boss.” When we share the power to decide things, we may be helping them to build confidence, self-reliance and self-esteem.

Some of the personal qualities at work here might include emotional intelligence, patience and strategic thinking. But perhaps the most important one is guiding others gently, that is, allowing them to feel responsible for the conclusions they reach.

This is how we build real people skills. And it’s how we set examples for our children, friends and co-workers so that they may observe and learn some skills of their own.

So did you get something from this article, too? Drop a comment in the box below and share what your takeaway was.

Cheers from sunny Japan,

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2 Responses to But Not a Pet Pig

  1. Russ says:

    Ken and Charles,

    Great article and I agree with most of what is written here. EVERYONE is learning all the time. I have a 14-year-old step-daughter, a full 50 years my junior. To say that she is at a point in her life where she has a LOT to learn would be the understatement of the millennium!

    And me? I’m still mightily struggling with this thing called PATIENCE! LOL

    Now I did say that I agree with ‘MOST’ of what is written here. I’m currently reading two books “Psychopath free : recovering from emotionally abusive relationships with narcissists, sociopaths, and other toxic people” by Jackson McKenzie and “The Sociopath Next Door – the ruthless vs. the rest of us” by Martha Stout.

    Both books explore the personality disorder of psychopaths/ sociopaths and suggest that as many as 4% of the population fall into these categories. I have two step-daughters – each with a different dad – and I’m convinced that both of these men are indeed psychopath/ sociopaths! And in the case of my younger step-daughter still living at home, I’m fearing that she takes after her dad because she totally lacks a conscience when it comes to responsibility and accountability. So far, in her young 14 years, is there any evidence that she cares enough to change unless things are 110% to her advantage.

    The fact is, there are some people who will not learn through natural consequence. Instead, they simply move on to the next victim. Reading both of the books I mentioned above gives me relief to know that in spite of all the hard work her mom and I put in to be the best role models, in the end it is NOT our fault for the shortcomings of our two girls.

    Is this just a convenient excuse? Is this to say that we’re giving up?

    Of course not! We are responsible for both girls until they reach age 18. (the older girl is already 21 and still very much under her dad’s mind-control games.)

    But the fact is, psychopaths/ sociopaths are REAL. They can be parents, children, siblings, co-workers… they make up 4% of the population and we ALL know someone who fits into these categories. We just have a name for them now.

    The good news is that both books give us suggestions on how to deal with these types of people in our lives.

    All the best from Toronto,

    • chasby says:

      Many years ago, when I was about 14 or 15, Mom discovered a book “The Mask of Sanity” which outlined the characteristics of psychopathy. After reading that, she decided Dad was indeed a bonafide psychopath. Mom (as I came to realize years later) was a highly intelligent but unsophisticated country girl who had a need to be with a chronically rebellious “bad-boy.” Now I’ve come to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all psychopath, no single, standard, emotionally blank personality. Instead, they can range across an entire spectrum, and while Dad did have some of the characterics, he wasn’t a pure specimen. In other words, even though he had little to no empathy on some days, on others, he really did try a bit to reach out and connect. Trouble was, he’d misused the people around him so badly on the bad days that they weren’t interested in meeting him halfway on the good ones.

      That’s why I’m heartened to hear that you and Maggie still care and keep your hearts open. It may seem thankless, but it does make a difference, even if it doesn’t seem to bear fruit until years later. And it’s also crucial to preserve the loving while at the same time avoiding being a sucker or a mark. That’s a real tight-rope walk.


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