I loved this chapter because I felt like it really got to the crux of so many parenting issues and challenges, and maybe even hits on some of the reasons parents get angry when they don’t know why they even feel angry.
The chapter opens with a picture of a two little boys. One, an eight-year-old, wants to play instead of practicing the piano where the mother recognized how pleased she would be to sit in the audience and hear her son play beautifully. The other scenario was of a little five year old in kindergarten who was having a harder time separating from his mother than the other children in the class.
“It’s so easy for us to get stuck in false ideals for our children, ideals based on what we’ve heard from others or the way we’ve seen others behave. We’re embarrassed if our children don’t seem to be doing as well as we imagine other children are doing.”
The authors go on to say, “Often children need special help when they don’t easily adjust to their environment. But what constitutes real help? Sometimes when we think we are helping them, we are inadvertently communicating to them that they have let us down by not accomplishing what we think they should. This message can damage a child’s self-esteem. Dorothy Corkill Briggs, a noted expert on the subject of self-esteem in children, writes in Experts Advise Parents, “If a child believes he is unlovable or lovable only on condition, he may develop all kinds of competence. However, these skills are hollow victories. No amount of competence ever substitutes for lovability…Each child needs to be cherished for his sheer existence.” So the question becomes: How can we learn to set aside our disappointment and relate to our children as unique individuals with special needs of their own?”
I found these pages really interesting. I think there often can be a finer line than parents want to admit in meeting a child where they are and lifting that child up to where they need to go in terms of behavior. I have seen parebts who have done a great job in connecting with that child and fostering love, but had such a hard time in expecting any right action from that child.
In terms of activities outside the home, I am sure we have all seen the split between parents who enrolled their children in all kinds of things at fairly early ages but also the parents who seemed to not want to let their children spread their wings with activities or within the community at all.
I guess I found it interesting that the authors’ mixed parental anger regarding activities and how children manage (or not) parental expectations and the requirements for that activity (and whether this is intrinsic to the child or parent-pushed) and parental anger regarding behavior and developmental differences. I think if I was the editor of this chapter I would have insisted these issues be addressed separately. They seem like two very different things!
However, upon reading the next section of the chapter entitled, “Wanting The Best”, it struck me that the common ground between these two areas is that how parents do want the best for their children, and how do we as parents react when we feel disappointed in our children’s behavior, abilities, actions. Do we meet it with anger or do we meet it with love? Do we meet it with a sideways sort of plan to help lift the child up if this is needed, or do we lecture? How can we be allies and the authority in our homes?
I would love to hear your experiences and also thoughts on this chapter if you are reading along…In the next post, we will skip ahead in this chapter to address the section entitled, “The “Special” Child Challenge”.