We are heading for that time of year when children get awards for their performance in the classroom or on the sports field – or they don’t. There is often a small core of children who repeatedly get awards year after year, and then there is the mixed bunch surrounding this core that changes each year.
A child receiving an award is at his or her best, right now. But the reality is that our children grow, shift and change all the time and this means that they will peak in different areas of their lives at different times. The mastery timeline for intellectual, physical and emotional development is not cast in stone.
There are things we can do to help our children to sharpen the saw in certain areas, but sometimes it’s time, maturity and patience that are required. I also believe that children grow and develop in different ways every year, many of which, may not even be directly connected to academics or sport, but may in fact be as, or more, important. For example, it might be your child’s year to grow in confidence.
Many small successes in a multitude of areas, some of which may not be publically recognised, may be just what is required to prepare the platform for your child to go on and shine at some future time. Perhaps it has been a year of repeated disappointments, of not making sports teams or just missing the marks they were aiming for, or a year characterised by breaking up of friendships or friends moving schools or countries. This kind of year provides the opportunity to learn about failure, disappointment and perseverance. And some children have the odd year when their health is more compromised, in some instances, just because they have grown very fast, and this too will impact on their performance both on and off the field. No two years are the same. We need to embrace them all and ask ourselves:
- What were the lessons this year provided?
- What were the worst parts of the year?
- What were the best parts of the year?
- How are we, or how is our child, stronger for the experience?
- Is there anything we need to change for next year?
When you have had this conversation as parents, then you can casually and, when and if appropriate, introduce the conversation to your child, to help him/her to discover the lessons and to grow from them positively. In this way you will be helping to break through their limiting thoughts, to ‘unbox’ themselves, so to speak. All children need something to strive for and measure themselves against which is why we have standards, norms and award systems.
Measuring your child only against the annual school awards can, for many, be a very unfair benchmarking tool. It can also, however, be a fantastic starting point for a conversation about individual differences, their gifts and talents and all the good things they bring into your life and the lives of others.
Children need to know that you are there every step of the way, encouraging and applauding their development, regardless of the awards they do or do not receive. Remember that you see a lot of amazing things that others never will. We need our kids to fully believe in the concept that everyone shines at some time or another and in very different ways. They need to be happy for those who shine today, for it is their moment, and hold on to the belief that, “If I keep learning, practicing and growing, my time will one day come, in its very own way.” And that’s okay.