My husband and I have spent 5 years building up our daughters self-worth– telling her she’s amazing, happy, a good leader, friend, person, and lots more. We’ve worked diligently at making sure her tiny ego is developed with armor comprised of unconditional love, realistic expectations, positive affirmations, and focused confidence in her and her abilities. We recognized early on during our time as foster parents that we must be diligent in speaking positive, life-affirming truths into the lives of children. Why? Because life is going to kick the crap out of them. Life, in general, is hard. People can be cruel. And we want to equip our child to withstand the hurricanes of chaos and hurt that will be thrown at her.
These formative years and experiences are so important to the healthy start of my child’s life and you single-handedly dismantled most of our efforts with one phrase: “you don’t listen because you’re the caboose.”
During this ‘caboose talk’ you told her she’s a follower. You told her who she is. Really? Why? Why would you do that? Why would you think it was okay to tell my daughter who she is? It is not your job to tell my kid who she is or what she can do. “It’s mine,” said the overprotective part of my mom brain in a joking way (sort of). Seriosuly, though. It is her job. She will decide if she is a follower, a leader or a groupie.
Now… how do I know that it stuck with her? That it could be one of those formative phrases that shapes her personality, and turns into insecurities later in life? Because she quoted it back to me. Her little five-year-old brain was able to instantaneously recall the exact phrase to me as I was trying to encourage her to be a good friend and lead by example in your classroom. My darling, courageous, little baby girl responded to me by saying, “I can’t. I’m the caboose.”
“I can’t.” Those two words….. This phrase is NOT what I wanted my daughter to learn in school. School is meant to be a place where we learn about the world and ourselves. And so far, my daughter has learned that she is not enough, she lacks something. Why would you speak that into my 5 year old? Don’t you realize the words you say have power? You’ve been teaching for several years now, so you must understand how damaging these little, seemingly innocent, messages can be to our children.
Let me educate you: Research by UNICEF shows the most influential years in developing intelligence, personality and social behavior are birth through 8 years. They are the foundation that shape a child’s future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life in general. Recent research confirms that the first five years are particularly important for the development of the child’s brain. Early experiences provide the base for the brain’s organizational development and functioning throughout life. They have a direct impact on how children develop learning skills as well as social and emotional abilities. Children learn more quickly during their early years than at any other time in life. They need love and nurturing to develop a sense of trust and security that turns into confidence as they grow. They do not need people telling them they cannot be leaders.
I don’t think my expectation are unreasonable. I do not want you to give her a trophy for every little thing she does. I do not want you to treat her “special”. I do not want you to bend over backwards for her. I do not want you to lower your expectations. I want you to encourage her. I want you to speak positive affirmations into her life. I want you to teach her about the world, and encourage her to achieve her dreams of becoming a doctor and living on the moon. I want you to be more intentional when you speak to my child, and the other 28 children in your class. It will be monumental in their development of healthy personality traits and behaviors.
Maybe you had a bad day. Twenty-nine kids in a kindergarten class seems excessive. So, maybe you were tired. I know my little girl can be stubborn, defiant, opinionated (all traits of a CEO, by the way). She pushes the limits sometimes, and verbally expresses her dissatisfaction when she is frustrated. I get it. But, if you weren’t tired, and you did get enough sleep the night before, and this is just too outside your modus operandi; then I suggest you stretch, grow and modify your methods. Perhaps research positive behavior modification and then see what a difference you can make in the lives of your students.
The Mama Bear