You Get What You Get: Helping Our Teens (and Ourselves) Take The High Road

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The-popsicle-was-invented-by-an-11-year-old

You get what you get and you don’t get upset.

We teach this jingle to preschoolers to eliminate envy or any suspicions of favoritism.   A blue Popsicle/crayon/Lego/paper triangle is just as good as a yellow one.  It takes practice and reminders, but eventually this little lesson sinks in and makes life easier for kids and the adults in their lives.

By the teenage years, kids don’t care so much about their Popsicle color, but they do care about circumstances that they think could thwart their success and happiness. And parents care, too.

Sometimes, you get what you get and you don’t get upset seems hard to swallow.

Like when they get the teacher who clearly is more interested in retiring than teaching. Or when the coach is unreasonably critical and short on praise.  Or when they find themselves always sitting on the bench rather than on the field or the ice.  Maybe they never made the team at all.

But I’ve come to realize that no matter what disappointing situation a person finds himself in, if he reacts in mature ways rather than quitting or begrudging others, he can move on and thrive.

I wasn’t always so level-headed about this.

I remember cringing (or was it seething?) when my freshman casually reported that every day, one or two students in her math class would be kicked out of class for talking.  Her seasoned teacher would point to the door and bellow “Get out!” – even if the student was asking to borrow a pencil.  This practice would inevitably make everyone chuckle, even the teacher himself.

That year I lost a lot of sleep wondering how my daughter would learn those important math concepts that weren’t coming easily to her.  I also worried she wouldn’t take school seriously if she continued to be placed in classes reminiscent of Welcome Back Kotter and the sweat hogs..

She recovered.

The next year, her math teacher took the time to review concepts before moving on to a different kind of math. It was a very productive year. Is my child a math whiz now?  No.  Math may never be her area of strength.  But one “off year” (or should I say “off teacher”?) did not ruin her.  In fact, it was good preparation for the real world.

Adults have to deal with challenging people and situations every day.  They may have difficult co-workers or bosses. They may not get the job or the pay raise they hoped for.  Perhaps they didn’t receive credit for a project they worked hard on.  They may have long hours of commuting that take time away from their families.  Maybe they’re laid off.

You get what you get and you don’t get upset. But you can switch gears.

You can stay for extra help.

You can get a tutor.

You can practice more.

You can try something different or new.

You can look for options and make a plan.

You can refuse to quit or point fingers or whine.

You can count all the blessings in your life and focus on the good stuff.

You can be happy for those who succeed and learn to be compassionate toward others who are struggling, because everyone will, sooner or later.

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