The Determination of a Child.
As a parent, we often wonder how are kids are doing. We watch for signals that we are doing the right things like monitoring friends, screen time, level of allowable sassiness, etc. We read up on what other parents are doing, we watch other parents, we watch other kids.
I admit I have learned many lessons in 23 years as a mother. As a young mother, I was so protective I would not allow young Penelope to run on concrete for fear of skinned knees. Over time, I learned that in order to grow children need to hurt to grow, to make mistakes to learn, and to feel great loss to love more deeply.
Now at the 23 year mark, I watch my youngest daughter walk into her dance class the other day. It gave me pause to think for just a moment.
She is the youngest and therefore she has had the most benefit from my mom experience which I have to admit is unfair to the others. They still listen and learn of course and they all have a determined spirit. They all set goals and plot a course to achieve them.
Anyway, as I watched her walk in I thought about all of the things that made her so determined and this is what I came up with.
- Responsibility is necessary. From the time each of them was very young they had to be responsible for something. Doing a simple chore like the dishes, clearing the dinner table, or just picking up your shoes the responsibility it was theirs and theirs alone. You couldn't give it away to anyone else. They could share it though. This built pride in a job well done. They all enjoy getting a job done. Each of them feels more confident in taking on roles of leadership when involved in team atmosphere. This is what responsibility does. It builds confidence in ability, confidence in self, confidence in leadership.
- Let them make decisions. I allowed my children to make choices. From what clothes to wear to what sports to play. I actually allow them to choose to stay home or go to school Usually it is me who forces them to stay home when ill. They would rather go. Sure, they went to school looking like a mess sometimes but they also found their individual personalities. Each of my daughters are very VERY different. I also allowed them to choose their hair cut and color. I never told them no. I admit that I did roll my eyes a time or two and asked them to think about it and they may have changed their mind but ultimately it was up to them. The thought process I had was that I wanted to have children that could successfully complete decision making on their own. This doesn't automatically happen. It starts with little decisions like what to wear or how to proceed with a plan. I wanted my children to be free to engage in their own thoughts not to choose what they thought I thought was best.
- Let them make mistakes. The hardest part of being a parent is watching your kid fail. You see it coming. You know what is going to happen and you want to intervene so badly. The devious friend, the sport they aren't so hot at, the multiple attempts at singing like a pop star that aren't successful. Let them fail. In order to know great success they have to know what failure feel like. The tears, the skinned knees, the sore muscles are worth the trophy, the plaque, the A from the teacher. Life doesn't seem quite so sweet unless we taste the bitter every once and a while. This is important for kids too. If life is rosy all the time we don't have much to look forward too. Tastes of bad make the sweet stuff so much better!
- Support them! Kids are dumb. They will do dumb things. As a parent it is not our job to point them out or even head them off so they don't happen. Our job is to pick them up, dust them off, bandage them up and get them ready for the next dumb thing. Along they way they will learn not to do the dumb things they did before and before long the dumb things will become less and less and they will grow into intelligent being that avoid dumb things. It is crazy how it works, but by allowing dumb things to happen we can avoid future dumb things.
- Give them tools! Encourage them to be organized by building schedules and time blocks for yourself and them. During this time we do this and that time we do that. Encourage them to be writers. They can write all kinds of things. Someone once told me it doesn't mean anything unless it is on paper. So, write it down. Use pros and cons lists in decision making. Make to-do lists. Make lists for packing, going out of town, etc. Write a story, keep a journal. send a thank you note. Organization and scheduling keep them in the loop and part of the planning of a family. They are participating as an active contributor.
All of these things (I think) have contributed to each of my daughters being determined, driven little beings. They each have their separate goals. As I snapped this picture of Atalyn I mentally ran through my list of goals as a parent. My number one goal is to raise a successful adult that can navigate the troubled world today and that she can be mentally and physically prepared to face those challenges head on and to lead her generation without hesitation with integrity and to stand with her head held high with confidence. This was hours 12 through 14 of dance this week. She is determined to get better. Determined to learn more. I am so very proud of her work ethic, her view of responsibility, her decisions, her sore muscles and bruises, and her constant lists and calendars.
My methods may not work for every kid. They are all different. One thing a do know is that if they are not allowed to grow and find themselves and what they are meant to be--they never will. As a parent, I am not interested in creating a clone of myself I want to see what becomes of the tiny human I created. Give them room to blossom, guide them, give them books, art, music, and love. Let them grow!