Someone close to me once told me, “The difference between you and many others is that you really believe you can do just about anything”.
Even as I sit here struggling with so many things, she was right. I do believe that ultimately, I will figure it out.
Where did this come from? It came from the combination of teachers, priests, aunts and uncles, parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors throughout my life.
Luckily for me, the majority of those placed before me understood the responsibility of each moment they spent with me as a child. They understood that every interaction with a child provides the opportunity to leave a mark. Although all the marks left on me were not always positive, the quality of the others was great enough to make up the difference.
Reflecting, there were several steps taken by those in my life to protect and strengthen me to get me from there to here. The point is that all of us in relationships with children, whether for an hour or a minute, have a responsibility. We must take it seriously.
1. When they speak, listen. This is how children come to know that their thoughts and words have power. If they are ignored, they will no longer trust their own judgment. They will ignore themselves, and instead be vulnerable to the influences of others. Without a voice, children lose track of who they are.
2. Let them see you make mistakes. Children must know that failure is a part of success. They must know that it requires perseverance and hard work. Otherwise, they will believe that they are the only ones struggling. For them to do it themselves, they must first know from you what it looks like to take responsibility, to admit the fear and to overcome.
3. Provide possibilities. Children must have as many opportunities as possible to try and be successful. They must learn from experience that they are good at some things, and terrible at others. They will see that failure is not a measure of their worth. It only means that it just may not be their “thing”, and that’s okay.
4. Let them do for themselves. Children must taste it, feel it, and smell it in order to know it. Without experiencing the struggle, the failure and the success for themselves, they will always fear it. They will run from every challenge, sure that they cannot handle it. Even though we know they can do it, they must know it for themselves.
5. Inform them of their limitations and strengths. A child must know his weaknesses, just as well as his strengths. Without this awareness, he may be ill-prepared when things do not go as he had hoped or expected and may not have the skills to brush himself off for the next challenge. In this way, children will also learn that it is through their strengths that they can overcome their weaknesses.
6. Teach them to know when to ask for help. A key to getting what they want is knowing when they need assistance. Let children know that you are there to help before they become overwhelmed and give up. They must know that asking for help is part of reaching the goal. Not only is it expected and encouraged, it is necessary to success.
7. Faith. Somewhere along the way, a child must know that nothing is possible alone. It really is true that nothing in this world happens without God. With this knowledge, they can face the challenge without fear. No matter what, it really will be okay.