I don’t know how to write this so I’m just going to start and hope that it makes sense. I feel the need to write about this subject immediately, which means I’m not going to do a lot of editing.
A couple of things happened this week at the same time that made me sick to my stomach. The first one is something that everyone knows about- the college entrance scandal. The scandal that involved wealthy, well known actors and actresses buying their children’s way into prestigious colleges. The second event was something that happened to my six year old son. He got in trouble at his after school day care program. Now, this isn’t the first time he’s gotten in trouble, but the frequency has been increasing in the last month. My son most likely has ADHD and Auditory Processing Disorder. What does this mean? It means that Jackson has a very hard time controlling his body. It means that when you tell him something, he needs to be told in more than one way in order for him to understand it. It means that he is easily overstimulated, especially in loud, active environments (classrooms, restaurants, after school programs etc.) It means that if he doesn’t do what you asked him to do, it isn’t because he is being defiant, it’s because he actually didn’t hear you because he was distracted. He doesn’t fit into the “typical” child mold. School will always be hard for him because our current school system does not reward children like him. But is he a bad child? Is he a trouble student? No! He’s probably one of the sweetest, funniest boys you will actually meet. Don’t get me wrong, Joe and I are not the parents who think that our child is perfect and the teacher is wrong. We know Jackson is hard to work with. We know he can be frustrating. We had Jackson’s spring conference this week and his teacher asked me if Jackson frustrates us. I literally laughed out loud and said “yes, every darn day!” For these reasons, Joe and I started going to parenting therapy in order to get the tools to best work with Jackson and what he needs. We had found that we were constantly frustrated with him and yelling non-stop in order to get him to follow a direction. Our yelling has decreased substantially and we are learning to work with his strengths. What we know is that Jackson loves to please people and responds very well to positive reinforcement. But our current school system and society do not see Jackson’s spirit and joy for living as something good. They don’t see his strengths, they see that he isn’t being obedient. Going back to his after school program. In the last month there have been changes in the staff. There is one staff member who believes that all children need to follow directions at all times and if they aren’t, there will be consequences. Fine. Children need to learn to follow rules, I get that. But as a six year old, they are still learning what these rules are and instead of consequences, can we try positive reinforcement? When I suggested this and trying a sticker chart (a tool that has worked in the past for Jackson) his response was “well, I mean, I guess we could try that as long as no one else knows about it”. I’M SORRY, WHAT!!!???? Why do we have to hide that? Why do we have to make it look like every child fits into a perfect mold? Why can’t other children see that not everyone is the same and their needs may be different? So I have a couple problems with this. The first is, what’s going to happen when this teacher talks to the other teachers in the day care? Is he going to tell them that Jackson is a trouble child? Is he going to say he’s a hard child? So then what? Now other teachers think that he is hard before they even know him, before the even see his strengths? And then it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy, where Jackson then starts acting poorly because that is what is expected of him. I see this all the time in the school system and when I worked as a kindergarten teacher. A child is labeled as being “bad” or “difficult”. The teachers then tell the other teachers and soon all the teachers at the school know this student and their deficits instead of their strengths.
Here’s my second problem with the fact that we expect all of our children to behave in one perfect way: our society puts way too much emphasis on how things look on the outside. This was just proven in the college scandal. For God’s sake!!! These people literally could not accept the fact that their children didn’t live up to their expectations and instead of loving them for who they are, they bought their way into prestigious colleges, all to look good. What the hell is wrong with our society?!!! Why the heck can’t we accept the way our children are? Why can’t we accept that not everyone is the same? Our world needs every type of person and their strengths. And not everyone is fit to go to college, let alone an ivy league. We live in a society where we value selfies, Instagram feeds and Facebook posts more than we value our children’s well-being and teaching them to be themselves. Will my son go to college? I have no idea. What I do know is that my husband and I will support him and his strengths and let him know that whatever path he takes will make us happy, as long has he is happy. Can we please just learn to accept children the way they are? It is our job, as parents and teachers, to teach them how to be good people and how to survive in life. It is not our job to judge them and demonize them for not fitting into the mold that we think they should fit in. I don’t know how to solve this problem except to teach my own children that we love them for who they are, and I hope you will do the same for your own children and students.
I'm an average girl who has discovered her passion for self-development after warrioring (yes, it's a word) through 6 miscarriages. I took that passion and applied it to helping others find their passions through High Performance Coaching. Boy mom to two "energetic boys" and navigating the art of being a step mom to a teenage girl, all while working daily on maintaining an authentic relationship with the best husband around. Sometimes mindful. Sometimes a runner. Always a little crazy!