Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dealing With Disappointment

Long, long ago in a land not so far away there lived a teacher, Mrs. Torres.  She lived for her students and loved them for she had none of her own.  She witness parents who taught her many good lessons.  Lessons that stuck around for years to come when she would have her own children.  This is one such lesson.

In the days of Mrs. Torres' teaching world, kids were offered incentives for extra reading.  Most often the children would have to reach monthly reading goals for six months, and as a reward they would be taken out on a special day of fun.  It was a wonderful program that motivated kids to go above and beyond normal expectations.

Then one day Johnny appeared.   Mrs. Torres explained to the entire class about the reading and the reward.  Everyone was excited.  Everyone was on board, and then Johnny raised his hand.

Uh, Mrs. Torres?


I'm not going to do this reading stuff.

Why?  You can do this!  I will help you reach the goal as long as you put your best effort forth. (Johnny really struggled in reading)

It doesn't matter if I do it or not.  Last year, I didn't do it.

Honey, you do realize that if you don't do it, you'll miss out on the day of fun?

No I won't.  My mom didn't make me go to school on that day last year and we did our own fun stuff. I got to go to the zoo and Incredible Pizza.

Wow.  Mrs. Torres had no words.  His mom was setting him up for failure.  He had no desire to work above and beyond because no matter what, he was going to rewarded...for doing nothing.  Mrs. Torres learned a HUGE parenting lesson.  She pulled out her Parenting 101 Notes and wrote:

Tip #236:  Do not bail out your kids when they don't rise to the occasion.

Fast forward a few years and Mrs. Torres has her own kids.  Tip #236 has stuck with her.  Even in moments where her kids are crying and disappointed, she reminds herself that bailing them out is not helping them.  It's hurting.  

This lesson is so, so important.  Kids will do what you expect of them.  It may take a few tries to get it right, but they will rise to the occasion.  If they fail, it's okay.  Through failure comes teaching.  Through teaching comes learning.  Through learning comes growth. Growth. That's what we want for our kids, right?  

When we rush in and 'fix' the hurts and shortcomings of our kids they learn that they have no responsibility.  Mom (or Dad) will take care of it.  They stay stagnant.  

For the past few weeks I have watched an ugly scenario play out at one of the activities Little Miss and Chunky Monkey participate in on a weekly basis.  It's hard to watch, because I know the mom feels she has her child's best interest in mind, but the child is being set up for failure.  Here's how it happens...

The child decides that day if they want to be there.  If the child doesn't, the child makes it as difficult as possible for the teachers and other kids until the child's mom rushes in and takes them home.  

This happens every week.  It is a shame.  First off, the child has not had the opportunity to learn the discipline of following through.  That despite your feelings, you have committed to something and must stick with it until the end.  Something that may not seem so important at 4, but will impact the child severely as they age.

Secondly, the parent (unknowingly) is demonstrating a very selfish attitude.  The class is very full and has a waiting list up to 6 months.  1 out of 4 weeks the child wants to be there.  The other 3 weeks, it is a battle for the teachers to get them to stay, deal with the behavior, and the other kids have to wait while the child is being dealt with.  That spot on the roster could potentially be filled with another child who is expected to be there and fulfill the role that a child is meant to fulfill.  To learn and grow and listen and obey.

I know this sounds really harsh, but I honestly look at this mother with such empathy.  She has a long road ahead of her.  I have seen the other end of the spectrum.  The student I spoke about in the story of Mrs. Torres' class, it was me as the teacher. Are you shocked ;) ?  

It is a true story.  What breaks my heart is Johnny (not the real name) is now in high school.  He has been suspended multiple times from school.  He never was held accountable.  He was always bailed out.  Now that he is older, he has found himself in situations where his mom can't rush in to save him.  It breaks my heart.  He is a beautiful boy.  He has potential.  We all have potential.  It just has to be used.

So when I see situations play out where a child is bailed out of their own doings, it hurts.  It hurts to see the pain I know the parent and child will have in the future.  Our kids deserve more. They deserve to have standards.  They deserve to have high expectations.  It reminds me of the quote...

Shoot for the moon because at the very least you will land on a star.

So let's shoot for the moon with our kids. 

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