Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The first thing to do is not do

The first thing to do is not do.

That is, it is better to avoid judging; better to seal up one's mouth than to allow words to come out that have -unknowingly-so much power to harm.

Thoughtless words. Opinions that are just that-opinions- have long lasting effects.

Pronouncements such as, "You are like this," "You are like that," "You are such and such," are damaging to the growing mind.
Slotting and categorizing kids before they have had a chance at trying their wings deviates them from following their own path.

I remember at a family event when one uncle said to his daughter who was dancing ballet with her cousin, she feeling beautiful and light and dainty along side her older and more experience cousin, "Never mind Katie. You are a soccer player." He turned to me to say, "Everyone has their talents."

Oh really? So you are the judge of talents, are you?
Well meaning though he was, he had already decided that his 3 year old wasn't cut out to be a dancer. As a good parent, he tried to console her where she needed no consolation at all; where she was happy in the moment and in what she was doing, being a dancer right now. Where now she might decide to never try dance again because "she isn't a dancer."

Time and time again I hear and see this destructive behavior that adults display with their own children. In my own family the oldest was the smartest- according to the parents. So of course that was her territory. The youngest was the good looking one but she longed to be considered smart instead.

It hurt the both of them- the oldest feeling ugly, the younger feeling dumb.

I remember an incident at university in the arts program. I was interested in focusing on sculpture. My art instructor taking a look at my work said to me, "You are a 2 D person. Painting and such." Excuse me?

This comment stayed with me so that I felt I had to prove that I was indeed a 3D person. What a waste of time!

So first thing of all- do no harm. After that half the battle is won.

Ours is to guard and protect those hidden treasures that are there and will come to the fore in time.
Our ugly thoughts, our doubts, our concerns have nothing to do with education and we should not let that get into the heads of our charges.

The best thing we can do for a child in our care is to help them to know and see their potential. Help them see that they are capable beings.

Parents, teachers and mentors  can support them but they themselves have what it takes to get to their goals.

(Photo by Maddie Kay)

9 comments:

p2.rab said...

I have an awesome memory.

Sadly, this has a downside to it. You wrote [...] This comment stayed with me [...] ......

Thanks to my good memory, I remember others' comments/judgments concerning me, vividly and at times, I feel guilty for holding grudges because of some 'harmless' statements uttered ages ago.

Consequently, I have taught myself to avoid passing judgments on others. As they say, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"

rfs said...

2p2.rab -Thanks for the comment. It's crazy how easily influenced we can be!

Crystal Jeffers said...

I agree whole heartedly. It is so hard to sit back and listen to other people tell a child they can not do something.

rfs said...

@Crystal-yes and when you are an adult, think of all the work you have to do to undo that-and to listen to your own voice rather than the voices of your mother, grandfather, sister etc.

Evelyn Krieger said...

Just discovered your website. I loved this post. Here's something to chew on: Dr. Seuss's high school art teacher told him he had no talent.

Laura Grace Weldon said...

So true. Labels, judgments, even thoughtless praise can backfire in ways the most well-intended adult can't imagine. I love your line, "The first thing to do is not to do."

rfs said...

@Evelyn-Thanks for commenting. It really takes believing in oneself to overcome the naysayers!
@Laura-You're right. praise can be just as harmful. Read Naomi Aldort's work on the issue.Thanks!

sunnymama said...

Loved this post! I've linked to it. :) http://sunnydaytodaymama.blogspot.com/2011/02/50-inspiring-links.html

rfs said...

@sunnymama- Thanks for the compliment!

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