Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Waiting until they're ready

I follow a website that recently posted a meme with this quotation:

You can struggle for weeks to teach a child something before they are ready, or you can do it in a few moments when they are ready to learn.

This statement was so impactful to me as I reflected upon my own experiences as a teacher and a mother.  I immediately drew a connection with my own daughter - now eleven years old.  As a musician and piano instructor myself, I was convinced that my parents had the right idea starting me on piano when I was seven. Seven is about the earliest age I recommend for parents to start piano with their kiddos, so why would I NOT start my own daughter in piano at seven?

So we did.  And it failed.  So we tried again when she was eight.  And it failed again.  I felt kind of like a failure and took her inability to play very personally.  Of COURSE she will play.  All Lambert children will play.  But my husband just looked at me and said, "Maybe she's not ready."  I knew he was right.  So we stopped trying.

When she turned eleven we had an evaluation for vision therapy and made the decision to pay for the twenty sessions to see if it would help her academically. We had no idea, however, that the vision therapy would impact her in more ways than just academically.  What surprised us so much was the confidence that the therapy sessions instilled in her.  Her stamina in reading fluency and writing climbed, and she went from below the tenth percentile in many areas to over the eightieth percentiles in everything.  Her ability to absorb information visually increased so dramatically, we were all baffled.

As we neared the end of her sessions, she brought up piano lessons on her own, so we started immediately.  Would you believe that when she sat down at that keyboard it was like her fingers had finally come home!  She was ready, and she is moving steadily through her lessons with very little prodding or help from me!

I see this over and over at school.  A kiddo struggles and struggles with reading, no matter what type of interventions we serve her, and then one year - WHAMMO! She is healed.  It's like something just clicks - hormones click in and she settles down long enough to learn how, or she matures enough to be remotely interested, or she is just ready.

A girlfriend of mine was so determined to potty train her daughter at the age of two, and therefore it took her two years to fully potty train her.  The stories I can now recall of this same type of "pushing" are endless.

The moral of this story is to have patience.  Am I saying don't worry? No.  It is our nature as parents to worry when our children seem to "lag" or "fall behind".  We want to compete, and we feel judged when they can't keep up with their peers.  We know that other parents take full responsibility when their children are gifted - "Oh, well.  We have been reading to him since before he was born." or "We work math every summer."  Well, guess what?  So do we.

I'm a mother with two advanced degrees in education, and my daughter struggles with reading.  I can't take responsibility for that.  But I can take responsibility for knowing my daughter - who she is, how she learns, and what her strengths are.  I need to remember that who my daughter is is not the same thing as who I want her to be. Recently I had a father tell me, "I know what he is capable of, and he is not producing."  But we should remind ourselves regularly that what we want them to be able to handle may not be what they are capable at this time to handle.  Regardless as to why.  And pushing them will only beat them down.

I go back to my favorite psychology professor from Harvard who tells us that kids will produce if they have the skills to produce.  Figure out your children.  If you can't, then find somebody who can.  Approach your child with curiosity rather than as a detective looking for something wrong.  Barricades may show up in all forms, but without your parental eye those barriers may never be discovered.

Be mindful.  Be aware.

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