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Watch Your Mouth

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

We say things about our kids all. the. time. We throw out opinions with reckless abandon. Positive. Negative. Labels.

So, what's the problem with that? You're just stating the obvious.

We have a way of compartmentalizing our kids. It's how we organize our world.

  • "My kid is terrible in Math."

  • "George is brilliant, he just freezes on tests."

  • "She just never pays attention."

  • "He's a little devil."

  • "She's smart but lazy."

  • "You can't trust that one."

  • "He's not creative."

  • "She can't...." "He can..." "She is..." "He isn't..."

And the list goes on and on (and on and on). I feel like I've heard them all in my 45+ years of teaching.

Yet, as a parent, inadvertently, unthinkingly, I tagged my kids:

*My daughter was 'not good in Math". (And she believes that to this day - even though she was treasurer for numerous clubs in grammar, high school, and college.) *My oldest son was a scholar - even though his grades may not have always born this fact to be true - his younger brother was not. They both lived up to our expectations (graduating 2nd in class; being "uninvited" from college).

*And the "baby" was "the baby". Gotta love him.

My labels, my thoughts were transferred to them and became their realities. But it didn't need to be that way.

As a teacher, I watched my students attack assignments. The methods of approach were interesting...some said it was "too hard" and gave up right away, others, with that "deer in headlights" look, sat there expecting step-by-step answers to their dilemmas, while still others saw the challenge, and stepped up to the plate ready to take it on. Nature? Or nurture?

As a tutor, I got paid a lot of money to help kids sort things out. What I found to be true was that some have a greater proclivity for certain subject matter, but that was not necessarily the deciding factor on whether or not they did well.

Those who were convinced they were "bad in Math" or "terrible test takers" or "not creative" settled on that as a fact. And it proved true. Others thought (sometimes without much evidence) that they were great at something. And those kids took on the task as if they were. Eventually, those thoughts became truth. When we would shift the "I can't" mindset to "I can", and not expect perfection, magical things happened.

There are a myriad of studies to prove this. I have become expert in instilling in the kids I taught the "can do" attitude.

Yet, it didn't always transfer to my own. I grew into it as they grew.

Luckily, we didn't need to be perfect. All my kids grew up to be fine, upstanding members of society - not without struggles along the way. I know that I had a part in some of those struggles. I also know that I gave them the tools they needed to overcome them.

Older, and wiser, I am much better at watching my mouth (at least when it comes to labeling my kids).


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