The Energy Ball: What not to do when your kid drops the ball.

Imagine you are watching your adolescent play a game of basketball. Only it’s not any game of basketball. This game is special. Your child is the only one on the court. You are the only one watching but, for whatever reason, this game is really important. The outcome will have an impact on your child’s future. On his well-being. On his very existence. At least according to you. You sit in the bleachers feeling incredibly anxious and worried and wondering whether or not your kid cares enough to make things happen out there on the court.

The first buzzer sounds and with a sinking heart, you watch your teenager walk slowly out onto the court, drop the ball on the floor, sit down and pull out his cellphone. The timer is running, nothing is happening. Your child is missing opportunities to score. This is bad. Really bad. So, like the devoted parent that you are, you leap quickly onto the court and grab that ball. You are running and jumping and sweating, dribbling that ball all the way down the court to your kid’s basket and you shoot and…score!! Then you run and jump around some more, sweating and heart pumping, all excited, grab, run, dribble, jump, you jump and shoot and…score!!! Exhausted, you look over your shoulder. And there is your teenager. Just sitting there staring at you. You just scored for him, twice, and you cannot tell if he cares. In fact, you cannot even tell if the fact has registered in his brain. You are mad. Really mad and frustrated with him for his “attitude”. How can he sit there like that and not DO anything? He is not applying himself at all. He doesn’t CARE enough. Why isn’t he worried about what the outcome of this game will be? Doesn’t he get it? Bad things will happen if he just lets the seconds tick off without taking appropriate action. So, dutifully you pick up the ball and run around some more. If he’s not going to do it then you had better do it until he gets the hang of it. Otherwise, some awful horrible life impact could occur. He will fail to accrue the “points’ he needs and he will FAIL.

Now…imagine there is a second basketball. The minute you jump onto the court, you notice you are holding a second basketball. In fact, you were holding a second basketball all along. This is your ball. You own it. It has your name on it and you are responsible for it. Now you have introduced your ball into your teenager’s game. In order to manage the ball that belongs to your teenager you either have to put yours down, manage it poorly, or put so much energy into managing both balls that you are physically, mentally, and emotionally drained and exhausted in a very short period of time.

Oh, and by the way, your ball has its own clock, its own baskets, and its own court. You belong over there. It’s really hard to play two games at once. (But that is the subject of another book.)

That is about what it feels like to work with an adolescent who isn’t really all that interested in working with you. In other words, if you are carrying someone else’s ENERGY BALL you are playing in their game and they are not. So the energy ball works like this: Imagine your 15-year-old is refusing to go to school because he has been very depressed and missed a lot of school and got very far behind and so now he doesn’t want to go. His doctor says he can go back to school but he doesn’t want to go. So you feel bad for him and you pick up the energy ball that he left lying next to his bed. You call the school and say he is sick (even though he is not) and let him off easy. He refuses to do any homework and you tell the teacher he will get it in later. You call all his teachers for him to work out a plan for his late work. He still refuses to do anything. You go down to the school to try and work something out. You make lots of phone calls and talk to people. You try to get him to talk to the school counselor. He is not too interested. You do some pleading with him. He says ok but only if he can have his cellphone back. You give him his phone back. He kinda does a little homework but then skips a bunch of schools the following week. You call the school to excuse him because if you don’t then he will get Saturday school which you are worried will make him very depressed. You try to have a discussion with him about school but he is not really that worried about his school situation. He thinks it will “work out”. You are sweating bullets about it.

Guess who is dribbling that ball all over the court?

The rules for Energy Ball are:

1. There is only one energy ball per person.
2. If you are holding more than one you’ve got someone else’s.
3. If you have someone else’s then they don’t have it.

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