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How to Influence Your Kids When They Keep Getting Smarter And You Keep Getting Dumber

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My kids think I’m stupid.

I knew this day would come. I mean, I used to be that smartass kid myself.

I thought that I knew everything about everything because my age (almost) ended with -teen. I thought I had the answers to life’s hard questions despite hardly having lived at all. I thought my parents, who paid for everything and provided everything and fixed everything, were the least smart people on the entire planet. And I had evidence. I mean, I got straight A's in middle school. What could they possibly know that I didn't?

(And then I moved out, and they studied really hard and became GENIUSES almost overnight! I'm not sure why they waited so long . . . )

So now my kids are the ones rolling their eyes when I offer advice, sighing with distrust at everything I say. How could my knowledge of unclogging a toilet or writing a check compare to their knowledge of sports stats and texting slang? Seriously.

Yes, my kids think I’m stupid.

But here is something I have noticed.

They think Abraham Lincoln was smart.
They think Michael Jordan is smart.
They think the Beastie Boys are smart.
They think Dr. Seuss was smart.
They think John Cena is smart.
They think Benjamin Franklin was smart.
They think Yoda is smart.
They think Steven Spielberg is smart.
They think Albert Einstein was REALLY smart.
And they think Lebron James is a genius.

Basically, they think everyone is smart except me.

But here’s what they don’t understand: I AM smart. I’m so smart that I can make them think I’m dumb while I’m outsmarting them. I’m smart enough to realize that I can trick them into learning the values I want to teach them by teaching those values through someone else they trust. Like Doc Brown from Back to the Future or Beverly from The Goldbergs.

Dumb parents everywhere, listen up. Let me share with you my secret - the Quote of the Day.


Every morning, before my kids head off to school, I scour the Internet for a quotation that feels right for the day. Sometimes it shares deep wisdom about life, friendship, hard work, perseverance, love, joy, faith, or success. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it is a line from a movie we just watched or from a favorite television show. Every once in a while it is a Bible verse, and sometimes it specifically applies to something that is happening that day, like if my kids need encouragement for a test or a track meet. The quotation is quickly recorded on two post-it notes, three if I want to be reminded of it later myself, and stuffed into lunch boxes before the kids dash out the door. If one of my kiddos is buying lunch, then I stick the post-it somewhere in a folder or book for them to find later in the day.

I know what you’re thinking. Her kids don’t read those things. They probably just toss them in the cafeteria trash or hide them under an apple or granola bar so that no one else will see. How embarrassing.

WRONG.

How do I know this? Because whenever I forget to pack one, they ALWAYS tell me.

Sometimes we talk about the quotation over dinner. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes their friends ask to see it at lunch. Sometimes my kids reflect on it on their own. Sometimes I stick it on the refrigerator, and sometimes we discuss it when we unpack their lunchboxes after school. Sometimes I see one from several weeks ago tucked into a folder or marking a page in a book. Cha ching. If they read it more than once before tossing it, that’s even better.

I hope that sometimes those words of wisdom, not from their stupid mom but from someone brilliant, like Charles Barkley or Will Ferrell, change their day. I hope that enough of those carefully chosen words over all the days and all the weeks and all the months of school will help to shape their lives.

Remember the days when you could stuff a sweet note into your child’s lunchbox, and he would treasure that little scrap of paper love all afternoon? Once you hit the tweens, those days are over. But don’t be fooled, moms and dads. Your kids still appreciate your influence. They still want to know that they are loved, even as their growing independence pulls them farther and farther away.

They want your attention; they just don’t want a lipstick kiss from their mother on a heart-shaped napkin anymore.

Because, well, moms are dumb.

But it’s okay, mom.

You've got backup. Because Homer Simpson is really, really smart.

**Maybe you want to pilot a Quote of the Day routine with your kids in the last quarter of the school year. Let me help! Use the quotations above to get you started this week. Then watch the Still Chasing Fireflies Facebook page for more. If your mornings are too busy, just prepare them on the weekend. Five minutes, and you're ready for the week!**

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