What is “cool”? We know “cool” when we see it, and it is considered in most cultures to be a valuable trait. But what is it? Many people have looked at this and there is no clear answer. But what do cool people all have in common?

In your mind go back to secondary school and picture the “uncool” kids. When they won, they made too big a deal about it. When they lost, they got too upset about it. They laughed a little too loud, tried a little too hard with their friends, got too churned up when things didn’t work out; everything was too big a deal. Winning was too important, losing too devastating.

Now picture the “cool kids” in your class. When they lost something, it didn’t bother them too much. When they won something, it didn’t overly elate them. Winning or losing didn’t seem to change how they felt about themselves; nothing was a big deal. And relationships were generally more important than winning or losing.

The healthy cool kids wanted to win and they put effort into succeeding, but they didn’t need to win. Though they didn’t want to lose, they didn’t fear losing. If they stuffed up, they laughed; mistakes didn’t destroy them and didn’t make them shamed or enraged. And if they won, they didn’t big note themselves, seeking everyone to know; winning didn’t validate them and they didn’t need other’s reassurance. They were cool.

They were ok whatever the outcome. Whatever happened, it was no big deal. “I want it, but I don’t need it”. They wanted other people to think well of them (such as a parent, friend, teacher) or to have a particular outcome, they worked towards that outcome, but they didn’t need it. They had lots of energy to put into living and planning, as none of their energy was being used up by worry or anger about an outcome.

The unhealthy cool kids looked similar to the healthy ones, but were actually quite different. Their way of not being churned up by their need to win was to reject their want to win. Though they looked cool and nothing seemed to bother them, they could only cope by denying any desire for approval or a particular outcome. Their response to a disappointment was “whatever” or “I don’t care”. This effectively kept them cool, but the price they paid was a lack of desire and a tendency to randomly float through life, rather than putting energy into purposeful living.

Why am I talking about being cool?

As some of you will have previously read, I think that whatever the strategies we take with our children, it is how we do them rather than what we do that will make them successful or not. The PACE approach (playful, accepting, curious, empathetic) is a classic example. Another is the 3C approach of calming the reptile, then connecting with the mammal, and only then conversing with them.

Recently I have tried out a new mantra with the parents I have been working with, incorporating this idea of “cool”..

“Be cool, calm and connected before you try to converse and fix it with your kids”.

Being “cool” is a mindset. That whatever has happened and will happen, it is no big deal.

For those of you who watched the TV series “Madmen”, you may remember the café scene where the young daughter spilled a milkshake all over the table (season 4, episode 13 for those interested).  The father (normally super cool) went into a very un-cool “telling off mode”, and his daughter went into “panic mode”…but the kids nanny simply got out the napkins and started cleaning it up, saying “It’s just a milkshake”. She oozed cool through the whole scene.

It’s just a milkshake. It’s no big deal. A mistake happened; oh well, lets fix it up. As parents with our children (and ourselves) we can worry so much and get so angry, taking everything as too big a deal. But watch healthy cool parents. They want good things for their kids, but they don’t need them. They don’t excessively talk up their kids successes (such an uncool thing to do), and don’t get churned up or embarassed by their failures. Winning or losing is no big deal. It doesn’t change how they feel about their child, or themselves. “We are all ok no matter what happens”.

Now of course some things are a big deal, and you likely won’t be cool at these times. But if you have the opportunity to make something a big deal or not a big deal, choose the “not a big deal” option and stay cool. Then you are much more likely to be able to help them with their strong emotions. And you will be modelling “coolness” to your child, something that will help them within their friendships. If you can be cool, it will be so much easier to be calm and connect with them, and ultimately to talk about what happened and fix it.

There is a line from the Katy Perry song “This is how we do” that exemplified this approach.

“It’s no big deal, its no big deal, its no big deal, this is no big deal”.