As parents and educators our primary concern is keeping our children safe. Along with safety we spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for our children’s success in life. Sometimes the two of those concepts seem at odds. Actually, if you dig in, I would suggest that you might find they’re not.
This morning my three older children (6,4, & 2) were playing a game that involved pieces just small enough and just large enough to be choking hazards for my youngest child (1). So, while his brothers and sister played this game he was bound to a high chair. He was miserable.
We tried to distract him in every way possible. We made silly faces. We made silly noises. We dances silly dances. We offered him a variety of food. He screamed, he cried, he threw the food. Nothing would satiate this poor child. All he wanted was to play with his siblings.
We were confident in our adult-knowledge that he could not play this game. It involved manipulating the little pieces with a small plastic tweezers. We “knew” that he could not do that. We “knew” that he would try to eat the pieces. We “knew” that he could choke on the pieces. Therefore we were doing everything we could to make it so that he couldn’t and wouldn’t play the game. It turns out what we “knew” wasn’t exactly true.
Sometimes it’s important for parents and educators to think out of the box. Instead of always protecting children from life’s challenges it’s important that we provide children with safe opportunities to be in challenging situations. As parents and educators we should consider looking at all challenges as simultaneously being such opportunities.
In my own life, looking bath on my path, I can clearly see that every single challenge I’ve experiences has also been an opportunity for learning and growth. When I’ve reflected on learning and growth and subsequently shifted my thinking and/or developed new skills sets, that learning and growth, born out of challenges, has enhanced my life. Even challenges that have caused me discomfort, triggered fear, or produced hurt have only made me stronger and pushed me toward becoming the best I can be (still becoming by the way).
I believe that children become better at grappling most effectively when they’re given opportunities to grapple and challenges to grapple with. Every challenge is also a chance.
Shortly after doing everything we could to keep our little guy (who’s actually quite big) from playing the game he was pining over his siblings moved on. He didn’t. Eventually he got to it. But guess what, he didn’t choke. In fact, he didn’t even attempt to eat the pieces. Instead, he carefully used the tweezers to move them from place to place. I was amazed that he had the fine motor skills to get the task done. This kid looked at the game as a challenge and was determined to overcome it.
In hindsight I realized and remembered that kids can do amazing things when they’re given the opportunities and support to do them. I realized and remembered that anything is possible, even when it’s outside of what we adults think we know. I realized and remembered that every challenge is also a chance.
The children we serve, both at home and at school, are at various places along developmental timelines. Like us, they are neither perfect nor stagnant in their imperfection. Like each of us, none of them can or should be defined by any one decision or any one moment in time. Each of us is a work in progress.
With the safety and wellbeing of children in mind we must consider pathways to independence. It’s critical that we keep progress in mind along with the idea that pushing through challenges with mistakes as catalysts to successes is going to best equip them with the tools they need to be happy, independent, and successful throughout their journeys…even thought it ain’t easy. Some would argue that nothing worthwhile ever is.
Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.