Stop Lying to Your Kids

2014-05-03 07.50.21

This is Jidge’s latest masterpiece.  For a 3 year old he does a good job since he successfully covers most of the item in paint before he gets bored. That’s a win. Thankfully glitter and shiny spray cover a multitude of sins and his art usually looks adorable to him and Mom when he is done. But i’m not going to be telling him he could grow up to be an artist anytime soon. Why? Because as of now (and he’s young so this could change), but for now he shows little aptitude for art. He has an appreciation of art, he likes making art, but so far there is no special interest in or aptitude for art.

Why does aptitude or interest matter?

Because you can’t be anything you want.

You can’t. We lie to children when we tell them this. We set them up to have their hopes dashed.

If you suck at Math then accountant is pretty much out. Not many asthmatic 5’6 NBA players or dancers with no rhythm.

So until and unless my son begins to develop an interest  or a natural talent (either of which we could help cultivate) in some area then I am not going to tell him he can become whatever he wants. I’m not telling him he isn’t good at art because he is in his own way but if he continues on this path and his parents abilities are any indicator he will probably stink at art. (Because this is totally me, see below.)

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Regardless, even if  he began to show promise as an artist there would be some other job choices that would be ruled out. As he grows he will show strength in some areas…and weakness in others. I am not going to tell him he can be “Anything”. Someday when he wants to be a superhero at 5 I will chuckle to myself, not ready to dash his dreams but I will not indulge an “I can be anything” attitude. I see those kids, I know them. All that positive reinforcement through “little white lies” creates children who cry when they get beat in a race at school (my mom says i’m super fast, he must have cheated!), who thrust themselves into the limelight when someone praises a peer’s art (yeah but look at MINE, my mom says i’m an artist, you must not have seen mine) and worse it eventually breeds adults who truly believe they are gifted in all things.

I enjoy knowing the areas I struggle with, being aware of them and learning to cope and work around those weaknesses helps me to be a more useful person and keeps me humble. As a Christian it also offers me an promise because the Bible says that His strength is made perfect in my weakness, if I can’t admit I HAVE weaknesses it’s pretty hard for me to recognize Christ working in it.

So next time your child asks you if they can be “X” when they grow up, pause before you throw out an insincere, “Sure, you can be anything!”, and consider honesty instead.  As a teacher the response I give is two part, “Maybe, if you have a talent in that area when you get older” and “Maybe if that’s what God calls you to do”. I have yet to see a kid bothered by this, but I have seen kids upset when they realize they NEVER had a shot at becoming something their parent promised them they could.

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