Friday, June 29, 2012

You can do it! (Maybe).

My brother- in-law shared with me a concern of his that comes up every now and again.
He wants his daughter to grow up believing she can achieve anything she sets her mind to. "Reach for the stars," he urges her. "You can do it."
The problem is, he confesses, there's that niggling feeling that keeps tainting his enthusiasm. What if she can't?  What if she just doesn't have the talent or the imagination?
He tells her that if she works hard she will become a famous pianist, or a great mathematician, or a movie star. But what if she doesn't have what it takes?
We can sympathize. Nobody wants their child to be devastated by 'failure.'
But let's consider: what is the worse thing that can happen? Even if she is 'devastated' at least she tried. At least she went for it with all her heart. It's better than never having tried at all. Besides, who are we to predict what will come of a passion?

I think we don't give our kids nearly enough credit. In our desire to protect them, we act like they are frail and unable to cope with reality. But it's our job to help build their resiliency, their ability to be able to judge themselves fairly. It's up to us to not destroy their self confidence by useless praise or promoting in the child a sense of entitlement.

Brother-in-law tells me a story he heard from a colleague. This colleague's daughter, a teen who has always heard that she can do it, and has had no reason to doubt otherwise, decided she wanted to play chess. "Daddy. Teach me," she asked her father. And he did. Habituated to believing in herself, she then asked to enter a prestigious competition. The Daddy worried that there was no why she could even come close to winning a tournament with   kids who had been at it for years (taught by a Master, besides).  He cautioned her but she insisted. She entered. She played.  She won.

I said to my brother- in-law, "Here lies your answer." Do not be afraid to encourage your child. We also don't need to be so 'invested in' or 'take over their' projects by being overly focused on them (the children). What you need to be able to do is to trust your child's ability to make sound judgement. As a parent you do not  need to take on that role- all you need to be doing is nurturing that child's inner voice and confidence by providing the opportunities...and then staying out of the way.

It will be as it will be. Supporting your child's ambition is not the same as making empty promises to her. She herself will learn to evaluate her abilities. Encourage your child's healthy view of herself by helping her approach the thing with a sense of adventure and good challenge rather than with arrogance and feelings of superiority.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's tricky because you really don't want to set up false expectations in your child. Sometimes parents really are disillusioned as well and they think their kids are 'all that' when they are not! So yeah-I like your advice-letting kids own their projects/interests and just helping them along without too much lip flapping. No one can truly know what another person is capable of.

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