This morning, Laurie (my wife) and I were sitting at the table with our boys (ages 5 & 3) like we normally do. Ervin, the youngest was talking over Eli, the oldest, while he was trying to talk with Mom. Eli turned to Ervin and said, “Stop, you are making me sad.” Laurie and I were somewhat stunned. I believe this was the first time our son expressed and emotion first instead of an energic response like yelling or making some sort of wicked dinosaur sound.
Laurie and I mentally high-fived and told him how proud we are of him for expressing his emotions. I then took some time to think about what this transition has looked like for Eli, and more particular for us.
Say “Use Your Words” 10,000 Times
Laurie is brilliant. She has probably said, “Use your words” 10,000 times this year. Because of that, Eli has had a constant reminder about the right way to handle emotions. Eli had a very tough time learning to speak and because of this, his vocabulary didn’t c0me around until later stages of development, leaving him struggling mightily to express himself when he was upset. Believe it or not, I would put some of the credit to “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and one of their cartoon shows where the story was focused on “using your words” to express an emotion.
Let Them Fail
Tonight, we were at Taekwondo lessons, where Eli is preparing for his second belt test. Eli has struggled with focus (he is five) and Taekwondo has helped him out greatly. That being said, we worry whenever he goes up for his testing. He suffers from butterfly syndrome or shiny object syndrome. He can be focused on something, like his martial arts and then something comes into the room and his attention is drawn away quickly.
So here Laurie and I are chatting about his test this coming Thursday. Laurie said, “I worry that he will feel bad if he doesn’t pass the test.” My response, “he will be fine.” I know, a typical dad response; however, I actually hope he doesn’t pass some of these tests. He will learn much more from the failure than the successes.
Interestingly, today, it was reported that we have the highest graduation rate in the history from high school. Sadly, it is still in the mid 80’s; however, I wonder, how many of those students actually passed every grade? Today, in some cases, our education system values the emotional well-being of the child more than they value the long term success of the student. I don’t remember anyone failing to make the next grade at my high school, and that was a couple (30) of years ago.
Do Not Solve Your Child’s Problems
When I was a freshman in high school, the Junior Class President took a disliking to me for some reason. I was new to the school, came from the ‘big city,’ and dressed differently. Long story short, he forced me to eat 60 cafeteria plums and then told me to be ready to take a swim on the way home. He threatened to throw me in the irrigation creek on the way home. I was terrified; not because of the being thrown in, but because I couldn’t swim. (long story)
So, like any good freshman, I called my mom and asked her to pick me up at school. Good call, Julian. You are probably already predicting how this turned out. My father, mother, brother, and sisters showed up after school to pick me up. My father insisted that we go and visit the principal and have a conversation about why I was being bullied. Good call. My parents meant well; however, they increased the harassment I suffered and honestly, it might have been good to have been thrown into the ditch. Who knows.
I think it is important for us to help guide our kids, and maybe with bullying, we should make sure our kids feel like they can report inappropriate behavior; however, I want my boys to try to solve the problem first before they engage us to rescue them.
We run the risk of raising kids who can’t solve their own problems. Today, when I need to figure out something I simply “google” it. We need to ensure our kids first think on a problem before they ask for help.
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