Dad's reaction to his son's spilled Slushee shows positive parenting in action

Anyone who has raised kids or is in the process of raising kids can attest to the fact that parenting isn't easy. Kids don't come with instruction manuals, and there are literally hundreds of "experts" that give conflicting advice about how to not screw the whole thing up.

But every once in a while, a parenting story comes along that we can all look at and say, "Ah, yes! THAT'S what parenting should look like."

Though the origin is unclear, Facebook user Renee Yancey's shared a screenshot of the story, which has now been shared from her page more than 88,000 times.



It reads:

"I just witnessed a boy, maybe about 6 or 7, accidentally spill a slushee everywhere. I'm talking blue and red goop all over the floor, the table, everywhere. The boy looked up at who I assume was his father, and apologized. Instead of getting angry, his father just said 'Hey, it happens. Let's go get napkins and I can show you how to clean it up.' Then they calmly went to get napkins and then he helped him clean the entire mess. Then, as they were throwing the napkins away, the father said to his son, 'You're going to be a human being for a long time, and you have such a smart brain that it's important you learn how to be more aware of what you're doing. So next time just be sure to pay more attention to your surroundings so accidents like this don't happen. Accidents like these can be prevented, but it's still okay if they happen. As long as you take responsibility for your mistakes, the clean up is a breeze.'

I have no words. That is parenting done right."

The story is simple on the surface, and for some it may not seem like anything earth-shattering.

But when you're in the day-to-day thick of parenting, it's not always that simple. It's easy to forget that our kids are just learning how to be. It's easy to lose our patience or express frustration when they make a mess that could have been prevented. It's easy to think that we just need to have them clean up messes themselves to teach them a lesson. It's easy to rush through fixing a mistake and forget to talk through the lessons that can be learned from it.

RELATED: This mother's description of her tween son's brain is a must-read for all parents

But this dad hit all the right notes with his reaction. He remained calm and patient. He showed his kid how to fix his mess, and modeled compassion and helpfulness in the process. He let his son know how to try to prevent such things from happening, but also let him know that it's not the end of the world if it does. He made cleaning up just the right thing to do as opposed to an embarrassing consequence, and gave his son the big picture in addition to helping him handle this specific incident.

He cleaned up the mess with his son. He didn't make him do it by himself, and he didn't do it for him. To me, that says to a child, "Hey, sometimes stuff happens that we don't plan for, but I'm here to help you work your way through it." He gave his son the big picture, in addition to helping him handle this specific incident. He empowered and encouraged him while teaching him how to take responsibility.

Well done, dad. What a wonderful world it would be if all parents took a page out of your book.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

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