We all want our kids to be happy. We shower them with love and encouragement, provide support when they need it and allow them time and space to become independent little people.
What happens though, when they struggle to find their place?
My eldest, Jack, is 6 years old and in grade one. He’s a super clever kid, funny, kind, sensitive and amazingly thoughtful (obviously these traits are all directly from me 😉 ). For a little while now, he’s been coming home from school upset about various things. He says he can’t run fast, that he’s not very good at kicking a ball around, that he’s not very strong and sometimes he has nobody to play with. I’ve tried explaining to him that everybody is good at different things and he just needs to find his thing. I’ve tried showing him and being enthusiastic about all the wonderful things he is good at. I’ve reminded him that if he puts in the time, effort and practice he’ll get better. I’ve asked about the other kids, are there others who like the same things he does or are their any interesting kids he’d like to get to know more.
It’s not really working.
It seems that his worries are being being fueled by other kids who are good at these things constantly telling him he can’t do it and that he can’t join in.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not precious about my boys. I completely understand that kids are kids and that Jack is a highly sensitive little guy who needs the constant approval of others. He seems stuck on trying to impress these kids even though I’ve tried to suggest he find others to spend his time with. Watching him, day in and day out, desperately try to to fit and join in but feeling like he’s failing is hard.
And what happens if they’re determined to excel at something, say football or running, and you know that they probably aren’t destined for those things no matter how hard they try? Do we keep encouraging them even though we know if it doesn’t work out that they’ll be crushed or do we try and steer them in another direction? Do we try and find a balance between the two?
It’s a natural instinct to try and protect them and shield them from hurt but I do believe that we can gain great strength from defeat. I think it’s important that my boys learn that there is nothing wrong with not being great at everything. I don’t need them to be the best, I want them to feel confident and to seek out their unique qualities and strengths as well as the things that make them happy.
So how do we do it?
I’d love to hear what you think.