Don’t underestimate your kids!
When Riley was little she had a hard time doing things. She was late meeting all the standard milestones. She couldn’t even use more than one word at a time. Of course, she had a lot to say but she used babble instead of English until she was five. But we would sit down and play with toys and look through books and I would ask her questions. I’d show her a bunch of shapes and ask “Where’s the octagon?” and such and she always knew. When we watched tv I would wonder what she was getting from the show. Was she following the storylines or did she just appreciate the audio-visual stimulation? I couldn’t tell. But that didn’t stop me. I talked to her about what I was doing and paid attention to her cues. Eventually I realized her babble had meaning to it. I developed the ability to understand what she was saying and I was so happy! It was actually more difficult for me to understand her when she began using English. I’d become so accustomed to her way of communicating and her enunciation was so slurred that it was more frustrating for both of us but we both learned and now people don’t believe me when I tell them she only became conversational since she was five 🙂
Our children are capable of so much! Sometimes we focus so much on what they can’t do or on what we wish they could do that we forget that what really matters is what they CAN do! I see it so often and I confess that I’ve been guilty of doing it myself. We see our babies struggling and we just want to make everything easier for them so we jump in and do it for them and they don’t learn to do it themselves. We don’t want them to climb a tree because they might get hurt. We don’t want them to get frustrated so we tie their shoes and do their homework and whatever else even though they are absolutely capable of learning to do it themselves!
The fine line is between expecting more than they are giving you and expecting more than they can give you. Either way sets the child up to fail and you up to be frustrated. If they point and grunt because they want something, coax something nicer out of them. If they’re pre-verbal, try to get a single word. “Please” is always a good one! If they have behavior issues in a given situation, explain what you expect of them and the consequences for misbehavior. It may be unfair to expect a pleasant demeanor but quiet sulking beats a meltdown 😉
I know it’s hard for many of them to show us this but our kids are smart. They’re paying attention to us. They know what we expect of them and act accordingly. If you expect your child to grab things from strangers and run riot through the store, they will. If we raise our expectations just a little at a time they’ll do their best to meet them. Of course, everyone has bad days and sometimes it’s just not possible to behave. That’s okay! Who among us never has a bad or off day! Go to bed and try again in the morning. Don’t underestimate our kids and never give up on them! Maybe they’ll never walk or be verbal or learn to fully dress themselves or whatever their struggle is but that’s no reason not to help them strive to learn just a little every day. Someone had to see the potential in Helen Keller, Temple Grandin, and Stephen Hawking. How much darker would our world be if nobody helped them achieve their potential? How much brighter will it be when our children reach theirs?