Monday, January 13, 2020

How About If We Focus On That Instead?

As any preschool teacher will tell you, every parent knows their child is a genius. And they're usually not shy about talking about it. Sally, can already recite the alphabet. Raphael can count to 500. At the same time, every parent is concerned, worried that their child is in some way "behind." This, they're usually not as eager to talk about. One of the wonderful aspects of cooperative schools, schools where the parents work in the classroom as assistant teachers, is that they come to see that they're right, their child is a genius . . . But so is that one and that one and that one. At the same time, they see that perhaps their child is "behind" at something or other, but again, so is that one and that one and that one. It's a chance to learn what preschool teachers know: every child is a genius and every child is "behind." Indeed, the range of what can be called normal, especially in the preschool years, is enormous, so  huge that it's hardly worth talking about.

And, frankly, who wants to be normal anyway?

I can't tell you how many parents have spoken to me over the past twenty years about their concerns that their child is developmentally delayed or autistic or has ADHD or something. I give them my best counsel, of course, referring them to their doctors or other professionals only to have them return to me, relieved to find that their child is normal. Of course, I'm happy that they're relieved, but this tendency to spot imperfections in their child often doesn't go away, they just shift their attention to some other concern. I know it's done out of love, but honestly, no one can thrive under the eye of an omnipresent critic, let alone young children.

Too often, our critical eye, our judgements, our urge to improve our children, causes them to believe that they must earn our acceptance, which is for young children indistinguishable from having to earn our love. When we say, or even think, "I'm doing this for your own good," we are not. We are doing it for ourselves, out of our fears, in order to create more normal in a world where normal doesn't exist. Identifying and fixing the problems of our children is actually a very, very small part of our job as parents. Our main role is to simply love them, to accept them, unconditionally. As Mister Rogers would say, "I like you just the way you are." The rest of the world is the place to prove and improve ourselves, but our strength to go out in the world and test ourselves comes from our parents' unconditional love.

Deepak Chopra wrote, "If a child is poor in math, but good at tennis, most people would hire a math tutor. I would rather hire a tennis coach." Every parent, no matter how worried, also knows that their child is a genius. How about we focus on that instead? Imagine our world if instead of parents hiring all those math tutors, they instead hired tennis coaches.

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