My fiancé and I are both Red. Her Blue 13 year old son Gabe came home from school yesterday. “I feel depressed.”, he said.
“Ha!”, I quipped, “What do you have to feel depressed over? You don’t even have a life yet!”
“Seriously?!”, Mom chimed in, “Go do your homework and chores! You don’t have time to stand around being depressed!”
Typical Red responses, right? It’s hard for us to even imagine what being depressed would feel like. It just sounds like annoying whining to us. Later that night, Gabe came in to inform us that he would like to call a family meeting. He has some very serious issues to discuss about his sister and the chores around here that need to be worked out. “Oh brother,” I thought while sighing and looking over at my fiancé. “Here we go.” She was rolling her eyes and thinking the same thing I was. We both knew what was coming. Another Blue tantrum/lecture filled with guilt trips about how unfair the chores are dealt out and the injustice of it all. And about what? Who feeds the cats?! I just want to laugh and say, “Dude, what does it take to feed the cats,about 1 minute? You want to have an hour long family meeting over that? Grow up!” But, I manage to be nice, keep it to myself and try to act like I’m interested and concerned.
Later that night, as we’re getting ready for bed, I remembered the Color Code. Maybe that can help. So, we pulled out the Color Code and skimmed through the chapter on Reds and Blues as a guide.
One thing that stood out to us both was the Blue need for appreciation. It used to be that Gabe was the “good” child. Always did everything right. Did well in school. Always got recognition and praise. All that changed in the last few months. Gabe has been struggling with the transition into middle school. The home work load is tougher. The social distractions and demands are trickier. The result? His younger sister has been stealing the lime light. She has been getting all the attention and praise of doing so well in school now. Is that what all this comes down to? Gabe is not getting enough of the appreciation he craves anymore?
Can it be so simple? Again, it’s hard for us Red parents to imagine. We don’t need appreciation. We do things for the challenge. To win or just to get things done. We don’t expect any recognition over it. I actually feel slightly awkward when I am recognized with appreciation. I either think, “So what? It’s just my job.” Or “Alright buddy, what are you trying to get from me now?” It is hard for me to imagine someone that actually wants that. With Gabe, I want to say, “So what? Get over it. Suck it up. With all this time you have spent crying about how much homework you have, you could have finished half of it by now!”
An interesting side note here: Why is he falling behind in his school work? Because of Blue perfectionism. He actually does amazing work. He writes better stories as a 6th grader than most professional adult writers.
So, what did we do? We began to publicly lavish him with praise and appreciation for all his amazing school work. We also pointed out and recognized how well he was keeping up with his chores around the house. I pointed out all the reasons why his story was actually more than good enough to be published. I also gently suggested to him that it might be a little overkill for his class assignment to write a 2 page short story. His was 15 pages long with illustrations! “Not every assignment has to win the Pulitzer Prize in literature.”, I reminded him, “Just enough to get an A on the assignment is just fine.”
Did it work? Like a charm. The ‘depression’ disappeared. He is happier. Doing well in school again. The only trouble now is with his sister. She is a Blue also. So now she is feeling insecure, depressed and worried about what is wrong with her! God help us.
When he is not playing poker or living in his 20’ Sioux tipi in the Rockies, Marshall Barrington lives in a small quiet Swedish town in central Kansas with his family. He has degrees in Business Administration, Marketing and Psychology. He trains, hires and manages new insurance adjusters to process claims at catastrophe sites. He is also a Certified Color Code trainer. His highly acclaimed classes apply Color Code to specific problems: Management, Sales, Human Resources, Dating, Marriage, Parenting and a new workshop for Fiction Writers -Using Color Code to create realistic Characters, conflict & dialogue.