Wow! He was right – his second grade report card was horrible. But wait, there were other cards in the stack. And upon close examination the kindergarten, first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade report cards were all satisfactory. They had positive comments like:
Peter is such a sweet child. I just love him.
I have enjoyed working with him.
He is a very interested little boy and I am so fond of him.
Peter is making good progress in school.
So what can we as parents and educators learn from this? First, children tend to believe what we tell them about themselves, especially the derogatory statements. These negative statements are so powerful that in Peter’s case they colored years of his childhood memory. He ignored the rest of the report cards and instead accepted one teacher’s educational evaluations of him and generalized them to the whole of his elementary school performance. Not only did he believe her then, but also he continued to believe what she was saying about him even when others were saying something else and saying it for more years. The impact of this teacher’s words was profound. Even as an adult he still believed her until I challenged that belief by showing him the rest of his report cards.
How can we keep this sort of thing from happening to our children? Well, we have some lessons to learn. Surely we can learn not to be judgmental of our children. We can’t see the future of our children based on their little lives. We have to be patient. Patience is not a parental virtue; it is a necessity. We must wait to see how the child develops.
We have some sensitivities to gain. Children are in formation; they are becoming themselves. Our job as parents and educators is to try to offer the very best educational opportunities we can and then to watch, trustingly, as their wings unfold. We need to be mindful of how fragile children are, not physically, but emotionally. We must be aware of how easily they can become affected by our words, our evaluations of them, and our opinions of them. We have to recognize the power our words have over our children. Try as we might to provide constructive criticism for our children, we would do well to understand that criticism of any sort is not helpful to a child in formation. Encouragement is what children need, and we adults need to find opportunities for and ways of encouraging our children.
All of us who are in contact with children need to be careful. Children are THAT important!
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher