I Don’t Want to Brag

Outstanding EvaluationWe were in the middle of a student-led conference, looking over the 8th grader’s self-evaluation, when I asked the toughest question of all:  “What do you think you’re doing well?”  The student froze in anxiety and stammered, “Um, I dunno.  Like, turning in my work, I guess?  I’m not sure, really. . .”  

Here was a student who had many A’s on her report card and high marks in behavior, yet she panicked when asked to say something nice about herself.  This scenario was repeated several times at other conferences, so I asked my 8th graders why it was such a hard to question to answer.

“We don’t want to sound like we’re bragging on ourselves” was the reply.  I tried to explain that being honest about your abilities and accomplishments wasn’t the same as acting superior to your classmates or putting someone else down.  They weren’t convinced.  It’s the same problem they have when they’re paid a compliment.  “It’s so awkward,” they say.  “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”  When I tell them they just need to thank the speaker, they complain, “But then it’s like I’m agreeing, like I’m saying, ‘Yeah, I know.  I am that good.'”

When you say something nice to teens, or you speak well of them in their hearing, don’t be surprised if their response is less than gracious – if, for example, they shrug or downplay it.  I sometimes supply them with the correct answer – “Just say, ‘Thanks, Mrs. Acuna'” – to let them off the hook.  

To which they’ll (un)graciously reply, “Thanks. . .I guess?”



It Won’t Be Cute When She’s 13


As we walked into the restaurant, I glanced down at a baby in a car seat – and took a second look.  There she was, iPad in both hands, watching a preschool video and tapping on the cutesy characters in it.  She couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 months old, but her parents had given it to her to keep her entertained as they waited for a table.

I could see the future: 12 years from now they’ll enter the same restaurant, and she’ll have her head bent over her phone.  As he walks through the door, her dad will look over his shoulder and snarl, “You’re always on that thing!  Can’t you put it away for once?”  And she’ll shrug and continue what she’s doing.

The Academy of Pediatrics (AAP.org) recommends zero screen time for children under two years old, but that’s not the main point.  What bothers me is that this baby’s parents are starting her obsession with electronics so early  The good news is that it’s never too late to make changes.  If you see more of the top of your teen’s head than his or her face, you have every right to set some limits, such as “No phones at the table” or “No phones while we watch this movie together.”  It’s a form of courtesy, which isn’t shown nearly enough in modern society.

Just be sure to practice what you preach!