As parents, especially homeschool parents, we sometimes link so much of our own views of success or failure to our children. When our child is excelling academically we pat ourselves on the back thinking we are doing such a great job. When they struggle in math or reading we berate ourselves, wondering if we are in fact ruining this child’s future with our inept teaching. (Hint: Don’t take the credit or the blame here. But DO keep searching for the right tools to help your child succeed and be the best that they can be. No one cares as much as you for your child. Keep looking until you find the best educational fit.)
Similarly when our child is kind and polite at a social gathering using their pleases and thank yous generously, we hide our self satisfied smiles of pride in our great parenting and offer a sympathetic smile to the parent whose child took a bite out of a cookie, put it back on the plate, and ran outside with nary a nod of appreciation. Really we are internally shaking our heads, glad that one is not ours. But wait….. Sometimes that child IS ours. Then, we hide our shame by laughing it off, “kids will be kids,” secretly embarrassed, knowing we have failed to teach this child manners.
“You are NOT going to believe what YOUR child did today?” greets the frazzled mother as her tired husband steps in the door at dinner time. Dad, not yet ready to be lambasted for the failings of his genepool on little junior, hesitates, feeling somehow less-than before the conversation even starts.
But wait…. How much of our children’s character IS the result of nature? Did they just come wired a certain way, and we have no control over how they turn out? And how much of who they become IS the result of nurture and really does weigh heavily on the shoulders of parental responsibility?
While not a genetic scientist nor a trained psychiatrist, I do have some experienced observations that will ease both your concerns and turn you into a detective searching out the best in each of the children you’ve been gifted with.
Clearly children are wired with certain propensities right out of the gate (or the womb). Often even observable prior to birth, they arrive with a basic set of personality traits. This observation, while guilt relieving, is not absolution for the parents just yet, because there is clearly a very malleable side to all children. Nurture is inextricably intertwined with nature - the parenting, education, friends, and everything that makes up a child’s environment will have a profound effect on who they are and who they become.
As a young parent, I learned to hold my confidence in myself as a result of my child’s successes very loosely. I recognized that things could quite easily go the opposite way and didn’t want to be left holding that bag entirely either. What I did begin to recognize in my children, in children I worked with, and in humans in general is that each character quality they possessed has two distinct sides.
Let me demonstrate:
- Lying is clearly a negative trait. Could lying have a positive side? YES. Imagination and creativity. This child can write an amazingly creative story and come up with answers to questions on the spot.
- Rude and outspoken = a child that is not easily pushed around and will stick up for what is true.
- Disrespectful = confident in themselves and less likely to be swayed to peer pressure.
- Shy = humble, introspective and thoughtful, able to be comfortable within themselves.
- Lazy = innovative thinker often looking for easier or better ways to do things. (Many inventors claim they are lazy.)
- Tattler = great reporter and recorder of details. Possibly a good story teller.
- Bossy = leader, organizer, someone willing to take responsibility. These humans get things done.
- Aggressive child = assertive personality often justice oriented and willing to stand up for what they believe is right. (The parent’s job is to help them learn what is right and what is worth standing up for.)
- Short Tempered = passionate, powerful emotions.
- Forgetful = engrossed in life.
- Prideful = confident.
- Obstinate = determined, able to stand up for what they believe and persevere when things are difficult.
This list is not exhaustive, but you get the idea.
You’ve also read the memes about the strong willed child and how IF they can survive childhood they will be one amazing adult!. This is a beautiful, though often frustrating truth. The qualities in our children that may seem difficult or unpleasant, ALL have a positive side. Every single one of them. It is our honor bound duty to find them!
As parents it is our job to search for the beauty in our child’s personality and even more importantly to help them discover who they are and celebrate their strengths. Way too often, even within the homeschool community, I have seen kids pegged as “bad kids” when in reality their personalities are wonderful and amazing and they need to be loved and respectfully guided into all that they were born to be.
Oprah Winfrey said, “What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.”
This is nowhere more true than in the life of a child. The child who is punished constantly and always criticized for their “bad behavior” does often grow up to be a bad adult. If you take that same child and place even one adult in their life that believes in them and encourages the good side of their personality, they are exponentially more likely to grow up to be a world-changer or at the least a wonderful human being.
As a parent, I had to learn to make decisions based on what was best for my child, not what was best for my pride. Knowing that even though I was seeking out the good side of my child’s character qualities, not everyone cared to take the time to see that beauty. Sometimes this meant finding more nurturing environments or curricula, and sometimes it meant understanding talks with my child in navigating negativity from less understanding adults or advocating for my child in these situations.
YOU are your child’s best advocate, cheerleader, and champion. Not just to the rest of the world, but to themselves. As you constantly dig deep and find the good side of each of their qualities you are helping to build them into exactly who they came prewired to be.
YOU dear parent, have got this! Keep finding and focusing on the good and just watch it expand before your very eyes!