Monday, June 8, 2009
Reading, 'Riting, Resisting
Our little Aislynn surprised us over the weekend when she took the initiative to write out the word, "MOMMY," on a sheet of stationary. Our congratulations quickly turned to consolation, however, when she became overly upset that she could not spell out "DADDY" in the same manner. For whatever reason, her little fingers couldn't make the letters. And she was upset. Her "D" was really more like...well...no perceptible letter in the Roman alphabet. There was really no way to spin what she created into anything resembling its intended purpose. And naturally, all of this got me thinking.
This article from Reader's Digest points up an all-too-common phenomenon among parents of "Millenials," children born after 1981: They are afraid or unwilling to let their children fail, even in the most seemingly harmless and constructive, instructive ways. The article has several telling anecdotes, from a teacher who foregoes the traditional red ink to grade her third graders' papers, preferring instead blue or black because, "They're less harsh," to a description of the author's unkempt child who wins a trophy for "Neatness," purely for the reason of inclusion, not success.
When we were given the definitive diagnosis on Aislynn, we were told that one of her major problems at the time was a set of parents who provided an ubiquitous safety net. We were operating under the assumption Aislynn was in some way incapable of whatever task was at hand, and therefore refused to let her try and reach inevitable failure. Cue Harvard PhD Robert Brooks, from the same RD article: "When parents rush to the rescue or take over, it sends the message, 'I don't think you're competent to handle things. I'm not sure I trust you to succeed.'"
So we resist the temptation to pre-empt more often now. When Aislynn makes a mistake, we tell her she's wrong, not that she has offered the correct answer to a different question. If she thinks she will give the correct answer every time, where is the incentive for actual achievement?
This may start with letters, but it will have far more critical implications later in life. After all, "if multiplication tables and the capital of Virginia are open for interpretation, what can youngsters really believe?"
You feel me?