Kids Are Capable of More Than We Give Them Credit For

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. . . but yet we send them mixed messages and treat them like they are incapable.

Hopefully today’s post will be a little shorter 🙂 Also, thank you for all your positive comments yesterday. I was worried and it appears as though I didn’t need to be.

So let’s talk about kids and capability today. Because, you see, I think we underestimate the capability of kids, especially in today’s helicopter parenting world.

We tell kids that they can grow up to be or do anything. I realize the good intentions behind that statement, but it’s not exactly true is it? I know we want to encourage kids to be and do their best and that they have a lot of potential, but how do we say it in a way that is encouraging but also honest? That if they work hard they can accomplish a lot of things, just not everything. I don’t want to crush their dreams, but I also want to be honest and genuine with them. So many kids, for example, dream of growing up and playing pro in whatever their chosen sport is, but the number of kids who actually grow up to be professional athletes is very little. I used to dance when I was little and I was decent at it, but I was never going to be the next Misty Copeland. I played soccer but no matter how hard I worked I was never going to be the next Mia Hamm. And I know we don’t want to burden kids with reality, but I think there has to be a better way of being both encouraging and genuine. Maybe something like “Dream big, work hard, and learn to love the life you have.” Or maybe I’m just a cynic for thinking this way – tell me what you think.

But even though we are telling our children they can do everything, we’re not acting like it. We’re simultaneously telling them they can do everything and then treating them like they can’t do even the most basic tasks of their lives. A survey found that 43 percent of parents admitted to doing their child’s homework. Not just helping, but actually doing. And I heard on NPR the other day that a small percentage of parents are actually going on job interviews with their children. And less than 25 percent of parents insist that their children do chores (used to link to a Boston news article – now broken as of 2/8/14 – such is the nature of the internet).

So we may be telling kids they can do anything, but our actions are saying they can’t. That they’re not good enough to do it themselves. Or that they take too long and we can do it faster. Or that they need our help to succeed – even after they’re become adults. And while I do believe in helping them, that’s different than doing it for them. How do they learn and grow if we never give them opportunities to? Sure they may not do it as well as we can or as fast as we can, but did we start out doing it perfectly and speedily every time? We had to start somewhere. But doing everything for our children may help them (and us) in the short term, but where does it get them in the long term? Are parents going to go to work with their kid too? (Assuming, of course, that going along to the job interview wasn’t completely off putting to the employer.)

What we need to do is to show kids that they are really capable of doing things themselves. Will it take them a while? Probably, but it is time well invested. Will they fail sometimes or not do as good of a job as we wanted? Probably, but those failures give them opportunities for growth and to learn from the experience. Letting your child fail to finish a paper they’ve known about for weeks but haven’t started on helps them learn not to procrastinate and start earlier. Encouraging your child to try things where they might fail helps give them courage to try other new things. Practicing something they struggle with or do imperfectly will help them do it better. And the confidence they gain from succeeding on their own is not something you can give them in any other way.

We have got to start letting our kids do the hard things because that is the way they grow and learn. All I have to do is see the look on Dominic’s face when he accomplishes something himself. “I did it mom.” That face says it all.




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