Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, I heard a 5- or 6-year-old girl tell her grandmother she wanted the cashier’s job when she was older. The grandmother didn’t say a word. The young girl then shared with the cashier, “I want your job when I grow up!” The cashier responded with a grin and questioned, “You do?”
“Yes, you get a lot of money,” the young girl said happily.
The grandmother grabbed the child’s hand and pulled her out of the store along with the bags of groceries. As I was walking past them a minute later, I heard the grandmother say, “Honey, you do not want that job. That is a part-time job for the girl, and she does not get all the money; the store gets the money. The store pays her very little to do that job.”
Let’s pause for a moment and try to think about the ideas flowing through the little girl’s mind. One minute she was excited about a future job, and now she was hearing every reason to not be excited but to question her desire.
In the previous post, I mentioned the idea of mental baby steps or gigantic leaps when interacting with a child (click here to read the post). The above situation is an example of a gigantic mental leap for the young child. The child was given a lot of ideas to process but there was more confusion than certainty in this interaction.
This also is a good example of the adult point of view dominating the interaction (click here to read this post).
When a child is sharing a future goal with you, tell yourself that there is something within that goal that excites the child. LISTEN to the child share the goal. Try and find out what excites the child here and provide a baby step. For example, when the young girl shared being excited about being a cashier, a baby step would be to say something ENCOURAGING, such as, “Well, if you want to be a good cashier, you better learn how to count money.” Tap into the child’s excitement and TEACH her a lesson in counting money later that day. Tell her that you LOVE that she’s thinking about the future and thinking about goals. Use the excitement as an opportunity to T.E.L.L. the child to think and act a certain way that is desirable.
Similarly, I heard a story about a 14-year-old who dreamed of becoming a vet. Her mother encouraged her to gather information about veterinarian school. Her mom added how important it was for her to start paying better attention in science class.
The next time your child shares something of excitement, tap into the desire and T.E.L.L. your child to learn something beneficial in that moment. Think of interacting with a baby step. The young girl in the opening story may or may not become a cashier in ten or more years. Trying to get a young child to understand something that may or may not happen in the far distant future will more than likely be a gigantic leap. What can you say and do here and now to step the child in the right direction?
Thinking about how children dream reminds me of a story I once heard of the great Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench. He said in elementary school they asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. When he told them a professional baseball player, they laughed. In middle school again he was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said a professional baseball player, and they still laughed.
By the end of high school, they had quit laughing.
Many of our youth have grand dreams at a young age. Tap into this excitement. T.E.L.L. the child about perseverance, discipline, hard work, determination … think of the many possibilities you can focus on to help a child gain stamina and strength in life!
About the author of this post: Denise Forrest, Ph.D.
Denise is a mother of three grown children and has been a teacher to thousands of students. She is the creator of the TELL message and Founder of TELL Our Children, Inc. Denise also serves K-12 schools as an educational consultant focusing on mathematics education and instructional decisions for student learning. You can contact her by emailing email@example.com.
We are in the middle of a series to think deeper about why we – and our children – say and do certain things.
In part 1 of this series, you were directed to write down two results, one you desire for yourself and one you desire for a child in your life. Link here if you have not read or done this task.
The next task was to write down at least five action items that would support accomplishing your desired results. Link here if you have not read or done part 2 of this exercise.
The question for this blog post is:
“If you know these action items allow you to get the desired results, then what stops you from doing these things?” You know what you want, and you know the actions that will get you this result, why don’t you do it?
When doing this exercise with students who say they wanted the result of getting an “A” in class, they knew it was important to do the homework, pay attention, ask questions, etc. Can you imagine what they said when I asked “So why don’t you always do these actions? What is stopping you?”
Among the common reasons cited were being too tired to pay attention or having other things on their minds; believing there is more to life than schoolwork; and after being in school all day they just didn’t feel like doing more schoolwork. Some students would talk about knowing they should ask questions, but feeling stuck, not really knowing what to ask or even who to ask at times. All these explanations are reasonable obstacles for not doing the action items known to help get an “A” in class.
It is important for us to validate the reasons for doing or not doing something. In particular, it is very important to ask, listen, and validate a child’s explanation for any stumble or obstacle being experienced. This is good information for any adult trying to help the child develop a stronger, more beneficial mindset. Refrain from judging an explanation as an excuse or limitation in the child – or in yourself.
Now, let’s return to the action items for listed for your desired result. What stops you from doing these actions? Take a few minutes to think about this. Write down at least 2 – 4 reasons for not doing some or all your action items.
Caroline shared a personal goal with you in the last post: To be more patient in all situations and in all aspects of her life. These are the reasons she believes gets in the way of her doing some or all of these actions:
- I don’t take time to see some things from other people’s perspectives, only seeing them from my own, which results in impatience and anger.
- When I can see the way that something needs to get done and know how to do it, I want to do it NOW so I don’t always take time to explore other options or consider others’ needs/feelings.
- At the end of the day, sometimes I’m just too tired.
When you finish listing the reasons that stop you from following through on your actions items, turn to the result you listed for your child. What might get in the way? What possible obstacles might stop your child from doing the actions you listed?
Caroline thought these might be some of the obstacles getting in the way of her 4-year-old daughter making her own decisions and acting independently with good manners and respect for others:
- She doesn’t see others acting that way.
- Adults in her life sometimes make her decisions for her instead of patiently waiting for her to act or respond to a situation.
- Adults in her life fail to see a teaching moment and let it slip away.
For the father who wants his 11- and 13-year-old to become people that contribute to the world, make it a better place, his action items included: volunteer work; they would be polite and respectful to people; they would be into what they are doing, for the most part trying to do good work; they would be helpful to others in need; they would want to keep learning more.
When asked what might be the possible obstacles for his children not doing these action items, he talked about if his children were around people who negatively influenced them and encouraged them to make poor choices. This might cause them to be disrespectful and make poor choices. He added they might also be too busy to do volunteer work because of their schedule in sports and school. He also mentioned they are now teenagers and into themselves, thinking less about others.
Now it is your turn. Take a moment to complete the exercise of identifying what you believe are the reasons or possible obstacles that would hinder your child from performing the tasks you listed. This task may be easier said than done; however, really think about the challenges your child might face that might stop them from achieving your desired outcomes. It is important to do this because these are going to give you insight into possible learning opportunities. You can begin to identify areas to pay closer attention and redirect your child’s mindset.
For example, the father above can now look for opportunities to interact and T.E.L.L. (Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love) his children when he notices someone in need. He can model this for his children so they begin to see and talk about why and how to help someone in need.
He can look for opportunities to interact and T.E.L.L. his children about why and how to give their best, especially when he notices they can do better. When you identify the reasons our children may not achieve this result, it will allow you to think about the opportunities to move the child’s life in the right direction.
Thank goodness the majority of adults agree with this statement made in the title of this blog! We make it our aim to raise our children the best we know how.
The question isn’t if it is a goal; the question is more how we are going about achieving this goal? Read any book on goal-setting and it is loud and clear that achieving a goal requires conscious decision and effort. It is not enough to just hope we achieve the goal. We are to keep the most important goals constantly in front of us, and make it our highest priority day in and day out. If we don’t stay focused and work on the goal, we may achieve something less or not achieve the goal at all.
So when it comes to raising our children, do we really have a plan for achieving this goal, or is it like one of those resolutions we state and may – or may not – achieve? If goal success requires conscious decision and effort, what might that look like when it comes to raising our children?
One idea is to consciously decide to find something to T.E.L.L. your child every day. Consciously try and teach, encourage, listen, and love them. Place a reminder on your phone, on your refrigerator, on your laptop, on your bathroom mirror. “I will T.E.L.L. my child today!”
Keep this most important goal right in front of you. Make it a priority day in and day out! Instead of merely hoping we are raising our children, let’s make it our constant effort to T.E.L.L.them. Maybe then we can start to achieve one of our primary goals – raising our future.