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Being Held Accountable by ... wait for it ... my 5 year-old granddaughter

If you are like me and many of my clients, we have worked hard to get where we are. And that success has had it’s rewards … no one can deny that. But at some point, thankfully before it was too late*, each of us has come to a point of realizing that we have sacrificed a lot to get the level of success we enjoy.

*(And it’s only too late when you are dead … or suffering from dementia and are no longer “you”)

Maybe you have been blessed with this realization. And one of the areas of sacrifice that you are looking at “fixing” is your relationships with children and / or grandchildren. That blessing has been given to myself and some of my clients. But with blessings … can also come other things. And that is what I want to share with you today … because it is one of those “other” things that was brought home to me this past Friday.


The back story on this started when my daughter and granddaughter moved out of our home a little while ago and I was blessed with the deep-down realization that I had to be intentional about my relationship with my granddaughter. So every Monday I pick her up from school, we go to eat dinner at her favorite place (IHOP for ‘happy pancakes’) and sometimes we go shopping before she comes to my house and spends the night.

That was what happened this past Monday. And this past Monday included a trip to Target. Now you have the backdrop to the story.


We enter Target, get and cart, Alice gets in the cart, and we start. Almost immediately, at the front entrance of the store, I see something that could work for a project of mine. Great … I had been looking for something like that for a while. In it goes into the cart. Then we go deeper into the store … and what do I see … but something else that will work even better. So I pick it up (thing #2); and simply put thing #1 into the spot left by removing thing #2. And I start to move on.

Then I hear this voice: “Grandma, what are you doing?” “Why I going to find the cat food?” “No” the small voice persisted. “That thing doesn’t belong there … that is not what we do.” She’s right … it doesn’t belong there. But I don’t want to go back to the front of the store … it’s late … we’re tired … we can let the store employees straighten things up. So I try to distract her by continuing the conversation. “What do you mean, we don’t do that?” She wouldn’t be derailed. “We put things back where they belong. Only strangers just leave things in the wrong place.” (I don’t know where the word “stranger” came from … but at 5 years old I decided that that was her way of distinguishing herself from other people.)


What could I say … she was right … we (her and I and our family) try to do the right thing in all circumstances. So … tired … without having found the cat food yet … it was back to the front of the store to put thing #1 back. And it was worth the walk back to the front of the store because of the smile I got as she watched me put thing #1 back in its place.


But I realized from that experience just how easy it is for all of us to get lazy … to get careless … with our behaviors. I know that I am not talking about “big” deals … in the sense that this described behavior in and of itself is not a life game changer. But I think we have to pay attention to these little behaviors because they add up to being at the foundation of our children’s character.

For kids really do understand. They are watching all of the time and the old adage, “Do what I say, not what I do” just doesn’t fit anymore. The generations continue to get savvier and have more perspective. Younger people have access to news 24/7 on their mobile devices, many school systems teach more advanced life skills and kids are involved in more activities which means meeting more people and having, often times, a broader perspective.


Cannot relate to the 5-year-old holding me accountable? Ok. So let me share two client stories that may help drive home the point.

  • Jack’s Story

When my daughter was growing up, I was the transportation chairman. It was not unusual for me to be asked to drive a friend of my daughter someplace. Ontime it was just me and my daughter’s friend in the car and we were chatting about different things. We learned we shared the same birthday and talked about what it is like to be a Sagittarius. Later, a day or two after the fact, my daughter told me that her friend hoped that she could grow up to be as “calm and nice” as I am.

I had no idea what she was talking about and then she relayed that this friend had observed me letting someone pull out of a side street in front of me and I was speaking nicely to the person telling them “you can go ahead.” It was interesting to me because I barely registered that I had done this, but this friend was watching and taking it into account.

  • Samantha’s Story

A friend of my daughters told me “My dad doesn’t respect women.” I was taken aback and asked her why she would say such a thing. “He was listening to someone on the radio and he said, ‘shut up, Sarah’. This lady (Sarah) was recently elected and he never, ever says things to men who are on the radio saying mean things about women.” Turns out this was a member of our US Congress who had won the local election and this man, her dad, has a different political viewpoint. However, his daughter didn’t care about the politics – she cared that she hadn’t heard him talk back to any male politician (even one denigrating women) but she heard him tell a woman on the radio to “shut up.”


Children are like sponges; they are constantly taking in the information they see and hear around them, and they’re watching everything we say and do. They see how we handle stress, how we treat other people, and how we manage our emotions.

As we spend time with our children and grandchildren, every day we are teaching our children by example how to react to situations. If we are not aware of what we are doing, we may be teaching them something we don’t want them to learn.

Each of us has to consider how we …

  • Handle stress and frustration

  • Respond to problems

  • Express anger and other emotions

  • Treat other people

  • Deal with competitions, responsibilities, loss, mistakes

  • Take care of yourself


I wish I could say that it is easy being brutally honest with and about oneself. But for myself and many of my clients, that self – introspection does not come easily. We have to have the courage to reach out to those who know us very well and encourage them to tell us the truth about how they see us.

And guess what? When each of us has found the courage to be that transparent with family and friends … every one of us have found we don’t measure up to our internal standards.

One example … and I will tell on myself. I have a difficult time being patient with people who lack common sense. And I seem to run into them in the drive through lines at Sonic and Whataburger a lot. I have always thought that I was making a good effort (yes, a conscious effort) to be pleasant to those that served me at the drive throughs. But when I asked for feedback from those that know me well … i.e. my son and daughter … I was told that while my words were pleasant, the tone of my voice could cut steel.

My response, no way. That’s not me. And then my precious daughter issued the challenge. “I could be wrong. You could be right. But if you truly believe that you are right … then for just five (5) days, record yourself when you are going through the drive through lines.” The challenge was on. And … guess what? When I listened to myself on tape … I heard the “tone”. Now I have to make a conscious effort to speak in a way that shows basic respect and dignity.


What about you?

  • How would you rate yourself in each of the areas listed above?

  • Do you have the courage to ask others who know you well and ask for truly honest truth from them?


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