Better than You Think

Oct 24, 2013

Parents despair over their children’s disappointing behavior, but here’s some good news:  Odds are, your children are probably turning out better than you think at every point along the way.

The trouble with grownups is that we’ve seen the results of bad decisions and anticipate the consequences of every mistake our children make.

We know that if they fail to do their homework, for example, they won’t do well in school.  If they don’t do well in school, their opportunities may be limited in the future, and when adults have limited opportunities, they sometimes struggle with unhappy life circumstances.

We parents want our children to have happy, successful lives.  So when they fail to get their homework done, our response cascades with intensity as we mentally move in a flash from one missing spelling assignment to imagining our adult children living on skid row.  Whew!  No wonder children are sometimes baffled by our over-the-top reactions.

In our worry we forget they’re learning at every step along the way. They learn from experiencing their own consequences, from our words, and from the character they observe in us.  

In fact, once that recalcitrant eight-year-old realizes she forgot to do her spelling assignment, she may frantically complete it standing outside school waiting to go in.  So while parents are still fuming about their irresponsible child, that very child proudly hands in a (recently completed) spelling assignment at school.  Once again, their child did better than they thought she would.

Children save their least responsible behavior for their parents.  At school, they rise to the occasion, but at home they underperform as they recharge their batteries.

Their parents see them as slackers, while their teachers have a very different view.  Many parents tell of their astonishment when a teacher compliments them on the behavior of the same child who had tormented his sister all morning.

When your child insists that spelling homework is stupid, take a step back and remember she will be carrying your lessons in her mind all the way to school.  Odds are, your child is doing better than you think.