Posted by: ppernick | August 17, 2012

Acknowledging Our Strengths

A couple weeks ago, I happened to turn on an episode of Wipeout and Simeon fell in love with it.  Ever since, he talks of bulding a kids’ wipeout course and asks Ari and I to plan out obstacle courses for him.  So we’ve done this with different objects in the backyard and different playgrounds around the neighborhood.

The other day after dinner, I took the kids on what I called “Tour de Parks”.  We went to three different neighborhood playground sets and I came up with a different obstacle course at each one using the equipment available.  Simeon was super excited about this and ran from one playground to the next.  Caitlyn, while also excited, couldn’t keep up with her brother.  She would run a few feet before stopping with a pout.  Then as I caught up to her, she would take my hand and we’d walk together as she complained about not being as fast as Simeon.

I agreed, acknowledging that Simeon is better than her at running.  He’s bigger and he practices it a lot because it’s important to be fast in sports — one of his favorite activities.  But I also pointed out she is better than Simeon at other things like swimming.

I will admit that I compare my children to each other silently.  I look at where Simeon was at Caitlyn’s age when it comes to math and reading and see just how much further along he was.  I look at where Caitlyn is with fine motor skills and emotional maturity and how much longer it took for Simeon to reach those same levels.

Note I did say silently.

I do not say this to them.  I don’t tell my daughter “Your brother was doing this by the time he was your age…” and I don’t tell my son “Your sister can do this already and you’re older than her…[1]”  I want them to know and be proud of their strengths and feel as smart and talented as I view them.

At the same time, I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that they are entitled to win at everything and are just as good or better than everybody else at everything they do.  They can be just as good as others, but it takes hard work to get there. I want my kids to understand it takes work to win and that winning is an accomplishment.  It means something more than a piece of paper, a medal, or a trophy.  I want them to know that even trying what you think is your best does not guarantee you will be as good as the person next to you in everything.  It’s OK for somebody to be better than you at something and you should be proud of the hard work others put in to get there.  If it’s that important, keep practicing and push harder.  Otherwise, find and focus on your own strengths.

So I pointed out to Caitlyn just how good she is at swimming and watched as Simeon waited for us to cross the street.  When we got home later, I found opportunities to help Caitlyn count objects and sound out letters.  And the next night, I let Simeon stay up a few extra minutes when he wanted to finish writing out answers to math problems from a workbook.

[1] Ok, well, maybe for things like getting dressed in the morning.  Once Caitlyn starts getting changed, she will be done in 5 minutes.  Checking on Simeon 15-20 minutes after he starts, I’ll find him a step or two further along but distracted by something in his room – usually a book or magazine.  I once returned to find the boy reading the informational tag of the rug in his room!  *sigh*

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