A simple school assignment entitled “If I Were In Charge of the World” gave me a brief glimpse into my child’s mind and served as a huge reminder of one of my roles as a parent; building confidence in my child.
When I pulled the assignment out of the backpack, I was met with an embarrassed laugh and, “That’s so stupid.” “What?” I asked. “What’s stupid?” Then came the reply, “The whole assignment. It’s just stupid.” It was quickly grabbed out of my hands and crumpled up. Trash.
Well, of course, that made me oh so curious. Kids went off to school, and trash digging I went. Fortunately, it was on the top layer! What I found wasn’t a big deal. Pretty typical actually, the things I don’t like get eliminated and the things I love are available in abundance.
Until the last few lines, they really pulled at my heart and have stuck with me all morning. Now this kiddo would be mortified if I shared his words so that’s not gonna happen, but it spoke of specific struggles. Someone else might read it and only see the humor, but I caught it. Until that moment, I didn’t know that some seemingly insignificant things are creating a sense of inadequacy within; things our family is quick to point out as faults. I hate that feeling.
Here’s what it spoke to my heart.
“If I were in charge of the world, a person who tries hard but messes up, makes mistakes for the whole world to see, and feels stupid because it seems so much easier for all the other kids; that person would still be allowed to be in charge of the world.”
I feel that way sometimes too. Okay, a lot of times. I feel like I just want someone to appreciate that I am busting my tail and that even though I mess up, I’m important enough to be in charge of the world! In this moment, created by a simple school assignment, I could recognize the efforts of a child; efforts I had been overlooking. I could see the desire to feel accepted, flaws and all. My heart could connect.
Do we notice the sincere efforts of our children frequently enough? They get lost so easily in the shuffle of a busy day and an imperfect life. I miss them all the time and even take them for granted.
It’s easy at the end of a performance or project to shower our kids with hugs and praise, “Good job.” “You’re Awesome.” “You’re the Best.” “I’m so proud of you.”
But what about when things don’t go so well, or in the quiet everyday moments? These are powerful moments when we get to shape a child. Words of encouragement are specific, truthful words that acknowledge effort and communicate acceptance. They are more meaningful and impactful than generic blanket statements of praise.
Here are some homework examples. Because who hasn’t pulled their hair out over a homework session!?
“I saw you stick with that homework when you were tired.
“It felt like you wanted to quit, and you finished.”
“You had a meltdown and quit, but then you came back and tried again.”
“You showed up when it would have been easier to stay in bed. I just noticed that….you showed up.”
“Looks like you’re learning. You got 8 right.” Even when it’s 8 out of 25. Notice what did go well.
If you have a child who is really struggling right now, take note of the simplest signs of effort. You might have to look hard, really hard. I get it but do it. They need your encouragement., and your heart needs it too. Commit to noticing things today.
I am grateful for these moments of insight. I need reminders. When we are on the look-out for moments of effort, and share words of encouragement, we communicate to a child that we believe in them. More importantly, we teach that they are in charge of their world.