Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More on Cheerfulness...or not putting the kids in a box

I started my spiritual reading again.  I used to do it "religiously" but life has a way of getting busy.   Anyway, I think it's very important to take a few minutes every day to read something useful to help you grow beyond just practical helps with homeschoolings, etc.  In fact, I find it so helpful I even encourage my non-religious friends to read something good for 15 minutes a day.  It doesn't have to be difficult, but pop magazines doesn't quite cut it.  The book I am currently reading is called Your Vocation of Love by Agnes M. Penny.

Well, yesterday the chapter I read was on Cheerfulness.  Is God trying to tell me something here?  (This is the 3rd time in a month or so it's come up - and I've blogged about it each time).  I don't really consider myself a crabby/grumpy person - but I know that I can and should be more cheerful.

The author of this particular book said something that caught my attention, "...even less negative labels can be harmful; introducing a child laughingly as "my shy one" or "my whiny one" or even "my pretty one" teaches the child to identify that characteristic with himself, and he will not attempt to overcome faults that he equates with his own identity (bolded by me)....."

My husband and I have always been very careful to not put our kids in a "box".  My reasons for not "boxing" our kids had more to do with how others view them than how they view themselves.   I've always been leary of the comments.....she prefers to read...we won't bother asking her to join our game.  Or he likes to draw a lot in his spare he would definitely prefer a trip to the museum to a trip to the zoo so we won't even ask.  People can get pigeon-holed. 

But, even though we are careful about how we talk about or think about our kids.....I somehow forgot what they think.  We hear it often during the day..."I'm just not good at math so why even try, I won't get it" or "I'm just not good at reading" (drawing) (folding clothes) (whatever).  I think it 's important to understand character traits and also strenghths and weaknesses.  Strenghths can be used for the Greater Glory of God...and so can weaknesses.  What a prayer to offer up studying in a subject on is "weaker" in?  We as parents can help our kids overcome their weaknesses; some will disappear (often a struggling reader..given a few years of extra help...will be back on par with everyone else), some will be a lifelong struggle (as a quick temper, or negative thoughts, etc.)  But, just like none of us would ever accept, "I'm no good at math so I'm not going to even try to get a good grade."  Neither should we accept a child's vice as simple matter of fact.  While it is very helpful to understand their temperments and vices...we help them by working on the associated virtue.  For example,  if a child does have a tendency to be slothful and's helpful to understand that...but you wouldn't stop'd work with them on diligence. 

And...the whole reason I started this super long post.....we have to be careful our children don't label themelves and accept that as an excuse (I am not talking about disorders here....although a lot of it probably would still apply, I just don't have experience there and won't go there).  We need to encourage them to get beyond that.  To try their hardest.  Like the child who gets B's without really trying (gee - with a little effort could it be an A?)  and the child who get's C's by putting in a lot of effort.  Obviously we know which is more commendable.  The hardworker.  The one who didn't just go with the idea "this is hard for me so I won't even try".

So, like I said, I've never been one to "put my kids in a box", I am going to be a little more attentive to the labels they are giving themselves.  Sometimes those can be just as harmful....sometimes more harmful.

(Disclaimer:  I have never forced my children into a box....but the toddlers choose to play in them....but Anna said, "You really have to do something about the titles on your blog...they just aren't that interesting"..  And...she's really good writer.  Some labels aren't bad.  I'll take her advise).

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