Somehow We Manage
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Kids, Dreams, and Encouragement
I said, that's life
And as funny as it may seem,
some people get their kicks, stompin' on a dream.
David Lee Roth – That’s Life
“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”
Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Children crave encouragement like plants crave water.
Because I spend a lot of time working with kids, I’ve picked up on a few things. Over the years, my video game skills have gotten pretty adequate. I can name a few rappers beyond MC Hammer, and I can intelligently discuss the merits of the various Spongebob characters if I was truly pressed. Does any of this actually make me cool? Probably not. Still, I think it’s important to try and meet kids where their worlds exist right now. Getting them to adapt to us is an exercise in futility.
Beyond toys or movies or games, I have also come to understand that what kids really want, is for someone to be truly interested in their lives. Kids really do crave encouragement like plants crave water, although we as parents, teachers, and counselors may sometimes miss this. All of us that have interacted with kids at any level have at one time or another felt uncool, it’s just the nature of the beast. Sometime this stings a little, as our pride always takes a little hit when we realize that the same kids that used to look up to us, now see us as a little less than hip. We’re supposed to be the bigger person in these scenarios. It doesn’t always work like this..
Despite these occasional hits to our own pride, I truly believe that we can never forget that kids need our encouragement more than anything, regardless of how tough or disinterested they may sometimes appear. I’ve spent plenty of time working with the future version of these kids. There really is nothing sadder than someone who fails to realize their potential because they never got the encouragement that they needed, but in some way, this is a part of all of our stories. It’s been my experience that sometimes four little words such as “I’m proud of you” can make all of the difference in the world to a person who needs to hear it. This doesn’t end in childhood either.
Perhaps even more startling, is that there are plenty of people in this world, who not only fail to give this encouragement, but actively seek to snuff out the light in other people. The song says it well, “As funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream.” Perhaps this is what happens to a number of people who failed to receive encouragement in their own lives. Hurt lingers, resentment builds, and they work to pull others down in the same way that they were. It’s a sad cycle that takes active and mindful excavation of our own pasts to consistently stand up against.
So for all of us who interact with children, as counselors, teachers, and especially parents, we have to realize that we are in fact leaving imprints on these little people that we interact with, and learn to put aside our own disappointments and remember what it is these children need from us. And perhaps, beyond the children, it’s not too late for the grown-ups in our lives to also rekindle their own dreams with a little bit of much needed encouragement. Many of us are still these same kids now in larger sizes. But we still have our dreams. Every single one of us. And without the idea of these dreams, an important part of us begins to die. So take the time to tell a kid you’re proud of them. They want to hear it very badly, and these little words can shape a child’s future in ways far beyond our comprehension.