Thursday, March 15, 2007

Celebrating Ordinariness

I'm reading this book called 'The Blessing of a Skinned Knee', by Wendy Mogel. She's a child psychologist who has studied Judaism and applies traditions from that religion to parenting. You need not practice Judaism to get this book. I've been nodding my head all along with it, particularly with the second chapter "The Blessing of Acceptance".

Essentially, Mogel submits that the more we put our kids on a pedestal, the higher the fall they're going to experience. It's the rare person who is good at everything, and the more that we pressure our kids to excel in multiple areas (through seemingly innocuous praise or more severe criticism), the eventual reality check that life is going to give them could be crushing. Instead, we should accept our kids for who they are. Acknowledge their true strength (probably in a few areas) and embrace their weaknesses. My favorite quote from this chapter:

"Children who feel that they are expected to surpass their parents' already high level of achievement or to demonstrate skills that are beyond their capabilities will suffer. Some children are one-trick ponies, and trying to get them to master a broad variety of skills is futile and destructive. Keep at it, and they'll even forget their one trick."

Mike and I are painfully aware that in addition to their little bodies, we're in charge of protecting their little minds. Mindless praise of EVERYTHING will either teach a child to work only for praise, or to have an over-inflated ego. Or both. Encourage the process of learning, the process of working, and they will learn to value that instead.

I'm terribly guilty of this because I don't know how many times a day I mindlessly say 'Great Job' to Clay, regardless of what he's done. Great Job finishing your carrots! Great job on that picture! Great job being gentle with Drew!... As if he were splitting the atom. I'll try to remember that as special as Clay and Drew are to me, in truth, they're just ordinary boys.

No pressure.

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