December 17th, 2010
On the final night of the X-Factor last weekend, what struck me most was the tears of pride of the winner’s father as he said to his son “We always knew you could do it”.
Whatever you may think about Matt Cardle, his parents have always believed in him…. What an amazing feeling that belief must be ,and it’s taken him a long way and his gratitude to his parents was evident.
We all believe our children are wonderful – most of the time, anyway!
But do we always get that message across to them? Do they believe that we believe in them?
From day-to-day activities to ambitions for the future, children often hear “No, not like that” or “I don’t think that’s going to work”.
Of course, as parents we have to juggle many roles – safety officer, construction instructor, fashion advisor, chief banker, chauffeur and Head Chef – but it is all too easy to fall into the negative trap of pointing out what they do wrong, rather than focussing on what they do right, or looking at the end product, rather than the effort and attitude that created it.
Anyone who has come to our class on Descriptive Praise will know how we can avoid this – and nurture and develop our children’s self-esteem and their growing understanding of who they are.
But knowing you are believed in, is more than simply growing up in a positive atmosphere.
Knowing others believe in you is how you learn to believe in yourself.
This knowledge is what makes it possible to try new things, and get involved in life and develop the passions and hobbies that ultimately form part of your identity.
As parents we naturally move to protect our children from disappointment. But, over time, real life will affect and shape their future and rather than crush emerging hopes and ambitions, we need to empower them to cope with real life.
Real life has already taught my elder son that he will never work with the Fat Controller on the Island of Sodor. And my younger son has quietly moved on from his assertion that he would, one day, become a penguin. They never needed me to tell them it wasn’t going to happen. And they certainly don’t hold it against me that I let reality dawn and didn’t shatter their dreams.
The penguin theme remains strong in our house, but now, my younger son is throwing his energy into science because he hopes to travel to Antarctica to build a new ice-floe for the threatened Gentoo species. And my older son is planning to fly across the Channel in a pedal-powered airplane with a group of other 10-year olds.
The problem with the latter, is that it’s turned out to be a real-life project being run in Spring 2011 by real-life aeronautical engineers . Good thing I didn’t dismiss it and him when he first told me about it! Because now when they safely land on the French coast, I can say to him “I always knew you had great innovative ideas” and he will believe me.