Saturday, May 12, 2012

10 Parenting Principles I Wish I'd Known: Episode Six

6) Your Children are not You, Even if You Treat Them as if They Are

Ok, this one seems like a no-brainer, right? We've all heard about the parents that shove their child into football, ballet, piano, and yes, even Math-letes because that is what they excelled in and they want the same experience as their children. We've all heard about parents pushing their children to fulfill dreams that the parent did not accomplish. We've all heard about the parents that start their children on the fast track to the Ivy League when they are still busy trying to control their legs and pooping in their pants.

These parents are clearly the ones that forget that the their children's accomplishments are not a reflection on them as a person or as a parent. They project their own insecurities on to their child instead of accepting their child for who they are. They drive and put pressure on their child to clutch to every opportunity that they have to drive them towards goals that the parent wishes they had been able to fulfill when they had the chance back in their glory days.

Yes, these are the parents that need to take a step back and stop putting so much pressure on their child for fear that it will backfire. They need to focus on their own child's aspirations and dreams instead of driving them to rigidly follow the path that their parent somehow got knocked off of before achieving their own goals.

We all know this to be true. We recognize it in other parents, even if we do not dare bring the issue to light in a direct way. When I think of parents like this, I see a parent that sees their child as a mini-clone and it is their responsibility to make sure that their mini-clone does not make the same mistakes or miss the same opportunities, that they try harder in the extracurricular activities and hobbies, etc.

Do you know what I don't see?


Do you know what I SHOULD see?

Yep, guilty as charged.

You see, I have fallen into the trap of parenting my children based on how I think *I* would respond at their age. But they are NOT me, so it does NOT always work. We may share many of the same traits and personality quirks and they may react in the same way that I did in a similar situation at their age, but it is important to parent them as an INDIVIDUAL, not as a mini-version of myself.

For Sassy, that means accepting that she learns things at her own pace and grades are not a true picture of her intelligence. She is VERY smart, but it does not translate well into her tests and school work. She often knows the material, but gets distracted during a test and then rushes to finish before time is up. This causes her to skim read the questions and select the wrong answer or answer the question incorrectly. For example, let's say that the test says "Name two important events from the story. Explain why they are important." Sassy will list the two events, but not explain their importance. Or she write one sentence with one event and explain its importance, but not realize she needs to add the second event information to receive full credit. Her handwriting is another sore subject. She gets in a hurry and her cursive letters resemble other letters. Os look like As, Ss look like As, Rs look like Ns, etc. She writes large so she can be legible, causing her to run short on room, causing her to write in incomplete sentences sometimes or then add the end of the sentence in tiny cramped writing that is not legible.

It has been VERY difficult for both Sassy and myself the last few years. I breezed through school work and tests at her age. Always finished with plenty of time left because I focused on the test and nothing else until it was done. Had no issue answering the questions quickly and thoroughly. My handwriting was pretty crappy at this age (and still isn't great haha), but back then we did not do nearly the amount of full sentence writing.

It has been a learning experience for me to sit back and realize that I need to adapt the help I give to fit her specific skills and to help her succeed. Clearly, we have different learning styles. I used to tutor classmates and younger students when I was in school and always was able to make my tutoring approach mesh well with their learning style and specific needs.

WHY was it so hard for me to realize I had to do the same thing with my child?!

For several years, I thought that Sassy's grades were due to many major life changes we experienced as a family. Her grandpa was ill, our home was being renovated, her grandpa passed away, her teacher passed away, and then we added a baby to the family. That is A LOT for a child to deal with in a span of three years, so it made perfect sense to me and the school that her struggles could be explained by the issues she was processing at such a young age.

But since life has stabilized, we still have experienced issues. No matter how I tried to help, it always seemed to backfire. It wasn't until I realized that Sassy's learning style and performance was vastly different from my own that things have started showing promise. In the last few months, I have worked WITH her learning style instead of against it. We have not seen a sudden turnaround, but we HAVE seen glimmers of hope. Getting 19 out of 20 on a spelling test instead of 10 out of 20. Scoring a 95 on a reading test when she typically gets a 73. These great scores are getting more common, which gives me hope.

I had always assumed that my children would get straight As because that was the norm for me.

I assumed that they would not have to work hard to get high grades.

I assumed that my children would be ME.

I was wrong.
(note- this does not happen often)

Now I am coming to terms with the fact that it is okay if my child does not get straight As at this age, or even in the future for that matter. What matters is that my child is doing the best he or she can do and is striving to do better. THAT is what matters.

I am coming to terms that there are different paths to the same learning goals. Studying one way might work for me, but will be torture and ineffective for my child. The goal is to encourage and assist my child in learning by finding the path that they prefer, not leading them down the same path I took to learn the material.

And I am coming to terms that even if you try your damnedest to not fall into one parenting pitfall, you can still find yourself there by a different path for a reason that you do not recognize at first. But you will still be in that pitfall, clambering to find a way out and to avoid falling back in.

There are many parents out there that are treating their children like miniature clones.

The dad that is pushing his son into football instead of band because he wants his son to lead their school to the high school championship, when he himself missed his chance his senior year.

The mom that has her daughter memorize hundreds of words so she can be the next spelling bee champ, while mom is stuck reliving her attempt at the same task.

The dad drilling his daughter on mathematical formulas in the hopes that she will win the scholarship that he narrowly missed out on.

Or the mother trying to help her daughter excel by using teaching strategies that are tailored for herself instead of ones that her child responds to.

We are ALL guilty of treating our child as ourselves at one point or another. When it happens, recognize it and look for ways to remedy it. Help your child achieve their dreams, not yours. Help your child learn their way, not yours. Help your child be herself, not you.

Your Child is an Individual.

Treat them accordingly.

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