I had a big “lightbulb” moment over the week end. Every week my sons get a list of spellings and times tables to learn on top of their usual homework and reading and getting it all done can really stress them out because all they want to do is usual “boys stuff”. However, because I was always good at spellings, and because it is important, I always make a huge effort with them to learn their spellings and times tables and make sure they get top marks whenever possible.
But this week the spellings were noticeably more difficult that the last few weeks. The words were all similar, 2 or 3 syllables long and all started with either dis, dec, disc, desc or pre – disallow, discipline, decision, description, preview and so on – 20 of them in total.
One of my sons found the going especially tough. In particular, when we tackled “desciption” (the only desc- word), he got muddled on all the other words he knew. He was really trying hard and we were both getting stressed. I really kept up with the effort though because – to me – spellings are simply a matter of going through them again and again. However, it just isn’t that simple to everyone and it became clear he’d reached his limit.
I realised that he was not going to get them all right and that it was just the one word that created the chaos in his brain. So I decided to let go of my own perfectionism, my own targets – and go with his. I told him to ignore the one spelling and pretend he only had nineteen. By concentrating on the ones he felt he could do, we boosted his confidence instead of killing it by focusing on the ones he couldn’t.
We proved to him that he could get a perfectly good score in what was going to be a difficult test (he’s 7) and he went into school on the morning of the spelling test feeling relaxed and confident about what he could do.
Because I had let go of my ideals, my own perfectionism and stopped piling the pressure on him, he became less stressed and so more capable. It’s not fair for parents to pressurise their kids. Kids these days have far too much stress in their lives as it is and they just don’t need more from the very people who are supposed to be protecting them and guiding them in this world.
The Serenity Prayer says:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
And that includes children. Being a parent is stressful, but there are times when you need to keep that stress to yourself. Never stress your children with your aspirations. Instead be the stress relief for your children. Being a good parent means that accepting the limitations of your children. Sure, give them opportunities to grow and develop, encourage them, guide them, teach them and stretch them when they can do more, but have the wisdom to realise when you are flogging a dead horse – and don’t stress them with something they’re not ready for or are just not cut out for – simply because you want them to do it.
I learnt a valuable lesson this weekend. I learn a new form of stress relief for kids. My son learnt his spellings. He did well, but if you want to know exactly how well, you’ve missed the point of this blog post. 🙂
Leave a comment to let me know what you think.