Your kid is not that special

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I know, it is difficult to believe. Your kid just isn't that special. He isn't a genius because he can read some words early, or knows all the dinosaur names, and she isn't the next incarnation of Picasso because she likes to color, or walked early.

Here, sit down. Let me hold your hand. I say this to you as a Friend. I say this to you as a teacher who has seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of children. I say this to you as another Parent.

My kid isn't that special, either. Of course to ME, she is everything. She is the sole cumulation of my effort, knowledge and genetic contribution to the species. She is exquisitely funny and delightful.

However, in the scheme of things, she is just another Kid. Your kid too - just another kid with quirks and some talents...but really just an ordinary kid.

Why is it important that you accept this fact?

You, Parents of the World, You are trying too hard. You are moving beyond "supportive" to "Blind indulgence and Irate Body Guard" and it is not helpful. Not to your kids, and certainly not to the adults who are working with them.

I mean, we all want our children to feel loved. Supported. Encouraged.  But this continual "Rah-Rah-Rah, My kid is AWESOME" stuff? This is encouraging entitlement. Rudeness. Selfishness. Bullying.

As a teacher, I have been required to say some unpleasant truths to parents. Their child can be poorly behaved. Mean. Conniving. Deceitful.

When I say this to parents who believe that they have a normal, un-special child? I get listened to, and the parents and I can work as a team to correct the behavior. That's what discipline is, after all. To Teach. To Guide. We do this best when teams of adults can consult and listen to each other and then work together in the best interests of the child and family.

The parents who believe that they may have given birth to the Second Coming?  Fight. Denial. Their child would NEVER do this. Their child is SPECIAL and therefore should be given different or more consideration. Their child isn't a bully. Their child would NEVER urinate all over the bathroom wall because he thought it would be "funny".

Have you seen these parents? They will park in the middle of a one way street in front of the school and block all the other traffic so they can walk their child into school. They will show up in professor's offices to plead why their child doesn't deserve that failing grade...even though the child didn't show up for class all term. If the parent doesn't get their way with the professor, they will go to the dean. There is always an excuse. Always an exception.

We are not giving our children good "self esteem", we are setting them on the path of self destruction. Mini Lindsay Lohan's with no boundaries and no expectations beyond  outward markers of success that we - their parents - are willing to fight to the death to protect.

I love my Kid, but she is a normal kid and she screws up. As much as it kills me to see her suffer the consequences of bad decisions like deciding to put off her homework until the last minute, or lying to me about making her bed...I would much rather her suffer those consequences now, than for her to live in a world in which she believes that she has some kind of divine right.

Those screwups are not a reflection of bad parenting, but rather the necessary stumbles on the path to being a conscientious adult. As such, I can handle other adults disciplining her. Not beating her. Not berating her. Simply Disciplining Her as I do their children, if needed.

Parents need to remember that WE are not our Children.  We are simply the vessels through which they arrived.

And I leave you with one of my favorite passages of The Prophet, which as a young hippie child growing up in Vermont in 1979, I was intimately familiar.

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.  

24 Baleful Regards:

Lisa said...

I think I love you. This was so well written and so necessary. I work at a University and see the end result of all these "special" children who think they are entitled to a $60,000/year job, that is only 9-5, M-F with 4 weeks vacation and a company car. That don't feel they should have to attend class if they don't want to and then don't understand why they failed.

I work in the career services office and on Monday had a graduates MOTHER call me to rant about her son not being able to find a job. She has been sending his resume out everywhere! Hmmm, maybe that's the first problem right there.
I am sharing this with my colleagues and friends with children.

Than you!

Baglady said...

This is al so true and yet so few people are ready to accept it. As a non child person (don't want, won't have) I get so fed up of hearing about "little Johnny knowing his alphabet and he's only 2!" etc etc. I like to respond with the fact that my husband (not me, I am no genius) beat his father at chess aged 3. That usually shuts them up.

Average Jane said...

The worst thing about overly fussing over a child is that eventually they'll get out into the world and realize on their own, "I'm not as special (smart, beautiful, etc.) as my parents always told me."

A harsh lesson to be sure.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

What's funny, is that I have had these same thoughts about my own kid - like, I think he is a great kid, but I am convinced he is going to be a world leader and that I know damned well other people think he is just a normal kid, too then I feel all bad-like as in what the hell? I am supposed to think my kid is the BOMB and there be something wrong with me.
The end.

Short story? LOVE THIS.

Dawn said...

Kelli - We Should Love our children. We Should believe that they are smart and capable and will achieve great things. That is providing the Base from which they set forth. A good healthy self esteem is one of the cornerstones to resilience.

I think it is when that spills over into irrational blindness to reality and/or the rights of others that I get really concerned.

And Man, have I seen that - from preschool to University. And nothing good ever comes from it.

AJ - How terrible, you know? To be perhaps 40 and realize that you are not the center of the universe? That other people have rights and opinions that are as valid as yours? Sadly some people never learn and so happily march all over other people's rights and opinions because they are so certain they are RIGHT.

Maybe I should make bumper stickers - "My kid is a normal, average child at a normal average school"

Anonymous said...

I'd buy that bumper sticker if you sold it:)

Well said Dawn, as you know I've seen lots of those "special" children and have had to work with those "special" parents as well. Sadly, some will never get it.

~Erica

karmamusings said...

Best line (other than the poem) "Parents need to remember that WE are not our Children. We are simply the vessels through which they arrived."

Indeed. 'nuff said!

thanks Dawn!

Dawn said...

Erica - you know too well that the kids who may be academically more inclined are far too often those with shaky social skills.

Pushing the academic at the expense of the social is deeply detrimental. What good is it if a child is a genius, but can't get along with peers? Or negotiate in a group?

Our little "cult of the individual", particularly seen in Western society is not doing us as Species any good, whatsoever.

Jess said...

My kids are in elementary school and I see this ALL THE TIME.

It does not bode well for the kids in question.

benjskramer said...

I just found your blog through a friend and happily so. I couldn't agree more with what you've had to say as my wife is a teacher and I have worked with teens as a youth pastor and with their parents now in a senior pastor role. One of the most dangerous things we can do to kids and people in general is try to convince them they are awesome and endowed with inalienable right to do and be whatever they want - "The American Dream" is a farce. We are not good enough, smart enough, and many people will not like us for who we are and the sooner we can realize it ourselves and help our kids to do so as well the better off our society and world will be. Just do the best with the gifts and abilities you have been blessed with and forget expecting you are the best ever. No matter how good you are at something someone else will always be better than you.

Dawn said...

Oh Jess, do I ever Know it....And I want to shake the adults yelling "YOU ARE NOT HELPING!"

Welcome Ben. One of the things I was chatting with Terrance about this afternoon was the idea that we are so opposed to sacrifice - or at least opposed to sacrifice that affects Us, individually. We are happy to cheer on others who sacrifice ( ie soldiers, nurses, teachers) but us, individually? Not so much.

We recently had to tell Emily that we simply didn't have the extra cash for her to take an art and yoga class she wanted to take. We were a bit worried when her first reaction was to burst into tears and then Blame ME for not having a job ( so not bringing in extra money) then asking why I couldn't sell some of my Rugs.

Explaining that she gets everything she Needs and that occasionally we have to tell her No to extras that she wants was really tough for me ( less so for Terrance) because I do want to give her everything.

But a 12 year old yelling at me that I am not working hard enough to satisfy her desire for an art class?

Not acceptable and Not the person I want to send out to the world.

yarnwhore said...

Thanks for this. I teach at the university level, and I see it all the time. I loved the kid who complained to the dean that I flunked him in lab because I was racist against Asians. No, shitwit, I flunked you because you never showed up on time, your lab reports wound up more red than black when I finished grading them (and I had copies of them all when he claimed that he couldn't find him), he didn't follow basic lab safety and almost injured others and me, and, most egregiously, he couldn't talk to me without obsessively scratching his balls. It also helped that the highest grade in his section went to an Asian student.

I was classed as "gifted" early on, but my mom didn't put up with crap. She wouldn't let them accelerate me more than one grade while still making sure that I got appropriate education, made sure that I socialized with people from many different backgrounds regularly, and had basic manners, decency, and dignity.

Now that I'm pushing 40, my friends come from all different backgrounds, educational levels, and careers. IQ is a number that is often flawed, and there are many types of intelligence that it doesn't test for. Raising your kid to not recognize that does neither them nor the rest of the world any favors.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Oops. I am NOT convinced my kid is going to be a world leader. My comment made NO sense without that tiny word.

BellyWoman's Rant said...

So true! I often feel like I got the short end of the stick. I have normal kids. They aren't genius, athletic proteges, they're just them. I love them. I like them most of the time. I believe they will be grounded members of society. They'll need to be to compensate for the rest of their spoiled generation.

Amy said...

THANK YOU!!
Now if everyone would just read this. I love that my kids are normal, that we are a normal family. No extra talents that take up precious family time.

Nothing I hate more than listening to someone talk about how great their kids are...when they too are normal.

I also see that sense of entitlement that does come when you give them everything. We know many kids that think they are "all that' because they are good at something, not great, just really, really good.

cluelesscarolinagirl said...

May I reprint this on my blog with a link to yours and credit to you for writing this? It is so, so important and you say it so beautifully.

cluelesscarolinagirl said...

And I want to say to people--when your toilet backs up, you are going to get someone who was probably classified as "not that smart." The person who fixes your car? Probably the same. We put our lives in the hands of people who were not in the sacred College Bound track and don't have degrees magna cum laude from the Ivies. And they usually do an excellent job.

Dawn said...

CCG - absolutely, you have my permission.

I keep waiting for the angry mob of Uber Moms to come and burn my blog down!

Amira said...

So well said on so many levels. I'd like to share this through my facebook, if you don't mind.

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holyflyingpiranha said...

Thank you for this. See it all the time. Love your writing!

the new girl said...

I couldn't agree more.

We used to say, 'Yes, of course. Your kid IS special...just as special as all the other kids are.'

the mombshell said...

Will you write my report cards?

Dawn said...

Oh Yes, Mombshell.

Or you could just photocopy this and slide it into the envelopes....

 
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