by Dr. Randy
Another school year for kids and parents, and we recognize the patterns and flow of school life. For young children this entails social interactions with friends, getting used to schedules, and becoming engaged in learning. This is such a complicated process filled with excitement, inspiration, and frustrations. It involves recognizing the priorities of academics, hobbies, activities, and relationships. And that’s just for those who are flowing well through the program of school. For many children, school is stressful or even painful. So many factors can be deterrents to engagement, especially for those children who find it difficult (or boring) to sit still at a confining desk for extended periods of time. For students who enjoy prolonged periods of quiet and focused attention, school can be a haven. Others may feel socially awkward, shy, or out of place. They may have other pressing interests besides the typical subjects taught in school. And a large percentage of children have high kinetic energy and difficulty remaining in one place for long. They function best through exploration of their environment and hands-on interactions. Unfortunately, they are often labeled as being distracted or disruptive. And some even get a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. Others have completely different styles of relating to the world, and they get put on an autism spectrum or diagnosed with a condition such as Asperger’s syndrome.
Every child has a distinctive and individual style of learning that needs to be honored and respected. Every child has unique gifts and talents, and these may not fit easily into the mold of the school model. It falls upon parents to recognize and cultivate these gifts. All too often we focus on perceived weaknesses and faults, giving negative feedback and corrections, forgetting that children need love, nurturing, recognition, and encouragement. Many children see themselves as failing, not rising to expectations of their own or the adults around them. They see their interests and pursuits as private havens when they should actually be celebrated. It is often hard for us as parents to strike the balance between trying to keep kids on track in the grooves of schedules and schoolwork and actually enjoying life.
Here are some suggestions.
- Have periodic conversations with children about their interests, whether those are music, video games, imaginative play, animals, or hobbies. Show your interest in their private pursuits. This points to the value of their inner life and can help to foster their passions.
- Communicate with teachers about your child’s strengths and interests so that he or she can play to these strengths.
- Avoid struggles over homework. You are not responsible for getting homework done. And keep in mind the myth of homework. Studies have shown that homework accomplishes very little. It creates conflict and tension in families and serves little positive purpose.
- Enjoy your children. Cultivate your appreciation of their amazing personalities and talents.
- Cultivate your own patience and forbearance. It may seem like your children are intent on driving you crazy, but they just want to have fun.
- Children will actually learn responsibility without your nagging. They will learn how to get assignments turned in by the time they get to high school. They will learn that they need to show up for work once they are on their own. They will be fine. Let them learn.
- Remember that life is fleeting. Teachers come and go. Struggles are inevitable and mean very little.
- Pay attention to the moment. That’s where children live. Take them as your role models.
- You may also want to review this article about recognizing your children’s strengths.