I had a very interesting and enlightening conversation with my 4 year old daughter after she let it slip that there’s a time-out chair in her kindergarten room.
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If you’re new to my parenting perspective, I’m not a fan of time-outs. I DON’T USE THEM. In fact, I teach parents how to get their kids to listen and cooperate without using time-outs.
As you can imagine, the news of the time-out chair came as a bit of a shock, and with some angst.
With no teacher around to question, I took a deep breath and got curious with my daughter. Our conversation went something like this.
Me: “What’s the time-out chair for?”
Hailey: “Well, you go there when you don’t listen.”
Me: “What do you do there?”
Hailey: “Just sit there.”
Me: “Are there books, or puzzles, or something to help with calming down?”
Me: “Who decides if you need to go in the time-out chair?”
Hailey: “The teacher.”
Me: “Have you ever gone to the time-out chair?”
Hailey: “No….. It’s only for boys.”
Me: “Why is it only for boys?”
Hailey: “They don’t listen.”
Interesting, I thought.
I sat on this for a few days, before sharing this story with several of my teacher friends. Wanna know the response I got from every single one of them?
“Well, yeah. School is made for girls who can sit quietly and listen.”
Every single one of them said this response. It was the first thing out of their mouths after I finished my story.
And even more amazing was that this was three separate conversations with three separate teachers. . Every one of them said the exact same thing: School is made for girls who can sit quietly and listen.
My mind was blown because it was their immediate response and it was consistent across all three.
Girls thrive and boys struggle.
Now you may be thinking “Hold on a minute. That’s not entirely true. It depends on the teacher, on the little boy or girl…”. But humor me for a minute while we speak in general terms because clearly, there’s something to this if three separate TEACHERS responded the exact same way.
In my line of work, I am called to help parents who are struggling with their kids, and in some cases, this includes struggles at school and conflicts with teachers.
“The teacher says he’s disruptive.”
“The comments on his report cards consistently say he needs to work on his listening skills.”
“He won’t sit still and is constantly interrupting.”
Now, if the school system isn’t designed for little boys who need to move around, then those boys are not exactly set-up to succeed, are they?
And if they’re not set-up to succeed, then they’re more likely to get in trouble. Hence my daughters observation that the time-out chair is only for boys.
When the expectations don’t fit the child there’s added stress and conflict (for everybody).
So what can we do as parents?
It’s our job to HELP OUR CHILDREN NAVIGATE THE WORLD. It’s not our job to protect them from every hard lesson or injustice.
Sure, we can talk to the teacher. We can talk with our child and we can do our best to resolve the issue in front of us.
But the most important message we need to get through to our child is this:
They are good.
They are loved.
One person’s opinion doesn’t define them.
Grades don’t define who they are.
How well they do in school really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
They can succeed, regardless of what others think.
They are worthy of love and success.
They are worthy of love no matter what they do and they will be okay even if they get it wrong.
Whether they get in trouble from the teacher or at home. This is the most important message.
It’s easy for us to hear comments from teachers and take it personally, like it’s a reflection on our abilities as a parent.
Like somehow, we’ve done a bad job. Or maybe we’re the ones feeling like we need to live up to the teacher’s expectations.
In these moments of reaction we need to stop, and turn inward. When we feel judged, it’s often pointing to some insecurity within us, the parent. We need to reflect on this first, before trying to help our child. If we don’t, we’re likely to over-react and that message of love may get a bit fuzzy.
It’s easy for us to get on our kids, attempting to MICRO-MANAGE TEHIR BEHAVIOUR, taking away privileges at home if they don’t do well at school, or to bring up the issue almost daily hoping for change (but instead pestering them and pushing them away from us).
But here’s the thing. Our kids need us to see past the mistakes, the criticism, the opinions, and see the good.
I’m reminded of a story shared in Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk: Do Schools Kill Creativity? about an eight year old girl who couldn’t sit still. The school was concerned and her parents took her to a specialist for an assessment. After the specialist listened to all of the problems she was having (being disruptive, not doing homework, etc.) and observing the little girl, he concluded that she wasn’t sick. She was a dancer.
Her mother enrolled her at a dance school, and that little girl grew up to have a successful career as a dancer and choreographer, responsible for productions like Cats and Phantom of the Opera. (The story starts at 14:44 into the video)
The story remains in my mind many years after hearing it for the first time because it’s a great reminder to look past the obvious, to look past what’s wrong, and to see the strengths in our kids even when they don’t quite fit expectations.
Regardless of whether your child fits the fidgety boy or quiet girl generalizations or is struggling in another way, don’t stress too much trying to make your child fit into a world that doesn’t quite match who he/she is.
Just make sure the message of love and worth gets through.
This post originally appeared on Think Feel Decide