Today's question is from "Amy" who asks "How should I respond to my child who has failed at things important to her?" Amy mentioned grades and a cheer leading team as examples.
First of all, allow me to be blunt- failure stinks. What I would like to impart to you is our children do not have the same mental capacity to handle a failing situation like most of us do as adults. There were times when I was a kid that I failed and my mom (God bless her) would give me the ol shake it off speech in one way or another. "Shake it off Clay. It will be just fine." Another line used more than once went something like, "It won't even matter when you are an adult." (But mom, I am only 11)
I'm not angry in the least at my mom but the truth is she didn't know what to do or what to say. I would be willing to bet there are a lot of parents who mean well just like my mom but don't know what to do as well.
The first glimpse I had at looking at what was perceived as failure through the eyes of a child came at St. Joseph Children's Home. I'll guarantee few parents who read this will understand failure like a child who goes through an adoption fair, doesn't get "picked" and watches one of his buddies who does. I won't get into the process but it goes on for quite a while before the adopted kid actually leaves. Therefore, everyday the "chosen" kid is still at the home is a reminder for the unpicked child.
Some of the children in these cases were inconsolable for a while. It was really hard on me personally to watch these things happen even if I was happy for the newly adopted child. This was especially true when a kid looked right in my eyes and asked that familiar question, "Why couldn't it have been me?" Another of my heart wrenching "favorites" was "What's wrong with me?"
I told you that story because I had a general response/attitude that worked for me in these dire times and I hope it works for you as well. My response was something like "I know things didn't work out for you but I'm right here and I think the world of you." The only reason this worked for me was because the relationship I had with certain kids was top notch. Anything less, and the kids would have interpreted my words as pure B.S. In these moments, that is the last thing a kid needs.
When it comes to Amy and her question. Grades come and go but if they are important to the child, then they should be to you. Let's pretend, for example, we are talking about a math grade. I would display a nurturing attitude with a tough undertone (because that is my nature). Here's how this would look.
I'd put my arms around Amy's kid and let her cry. When she was finished, I'd let the child know how smart she is and that we were going to work through this problem together. In the ensuing days though, if I ever saw the kid slacking on the math work, I wouldn't be quite as nurturing. I'd give subtle reminders of how that math grade made her feel and encourage her to stay focused.
Cheerleading is pretty much the same story. Any time a child doesn't make a team, it is devastating because of (1) the feelings of failure for not making the team and (2) having to face the peers at school who did. Although the math grade may be more important to you as a parent, the cheerleading problem may be harder in the eyes of the child. After all, the math grade is private.
|It is not easy to face the girls who beat you in school|
I'd like to know why she didn't make the team by talking to the coach. (Don't pressure the coach to include the child on the team). Find out what she can improve on and attack the weaknesses if the child is willing. If not, it may be a good idea to find another sport which she is better suited. Let the choice be hers.
As all of us know, failure is a part of life. No one succeeds at everything. But, the effective parent will get down on the child's level, help them through the pain, and teach towards the future.
Thanks to all who stopped by today. If you think this post is worthy please pass it along to another family.
This Monday, I will be back with an education blog. I am going to write the illusionists piece I premised last Friday and some similarities they have with teachers. Break out your magic wands and hidden keys and I'll see you Monday.