Is Your Child Normal?
Most of us are inundated with ideas about what is considered normal for children and, as parents, when we encounter a situation that falls outside of “normal,” we conclude that there must be something wrong with the child.
Traditional education has convinced us that it is normal for all children to sit quietly at a desk at school with an occasional break for lunch or recess, for some kids to fail subjects while others breeze through, and for some kids to read well while others struggle. These are definitions of “normal” that most of us buy into as acceptable and true. After all, we were raised that way.
If your child struggles to be successful in school, someone will probably diagnose and give a name to what’s wrong, making it normal for kids with that diagnosis to act that way. It’s normal that other kids have learned to read easily while your child struggles because he has “dyslexia.”
So-called normal children can sit still at a desk all day and do their work, but your son has trouble because he has “ADD.” We live in a culture that labels what we don’t understand so that we can try to make sense out of what’s wrong with our child.
But wait a minute! Maybe it’s time to stop assuming that there’s something wrong with our children and start trusting in their innate abilities. It’s time to realize that the child is the only person who can define what normal is for her. And it’s time to stop holding our children to the benchmarks of a floundering education system and instead hold the education system accountable to the intelligence that lies within every one of our children. Our kids are not the problem. The system is simply not geared to help them succeed.
Schools, teachers, guidance counselors, and other experts are all an important part of discovering how we can help and support children. These professionals and the school system are supposed to have our children’s best interests at heart. But the benchmarks typically used by all of these experts address administrative needs and, as parents, we need to advocate for our child’s individual needs.
All of our children are different and each is unique, so it is unrealistic to think that every child should mold to a system. What if we assumed that every child comes into life equipped with everything they need to be happy, successful, and social? Instead of being convinced that the child is the problem, we would start supporting our children and the abilities that they possess, asking the system to adapt and take responsibility for providing what they need to thrive. We would move away from a punitive system of failure to a supportive system of discovery.
Instead of asking “How can I get my child to fit into the ‘normal’ box”?” we’d ask, “How can I support my child in developing in her natural way—a way that works for her?” Start by asking yourself, “What would be different if I stopped saying that my child has ____diagnosis?”
A diagnosis tells us how our child is struggling, but not what she needs to succeed. There are always parents who break through the diagnoses with new and creative ways to connect with their child. Let that parent be you.
Does your child get easily overwhelmed in noisy, crowded situations? Maybe she seems overly sensitive. Does she have trouble focusing on the task at hand? Maybe she gets grumpy and frustrated when she can’t have something she wants. These are all just exaggerated feelings that we all share from time to time. As adults, we all adapt and try to find ways to deal with our own stress, anxiety, and disappointment, and we all have different triggers that set us off. Let’s empower our children to figure out how to get their own needs met–whatever that means for them–at an early age.
Let’s teach our children to say “I know that I am capable of being happy, successful, and helpful. Right now, I’m not feeling that way, so what can I do, or how can I change my perspective in a way that will help me move in that direction?” The most rewarding and important outcome is that along the way they will learn to step into their own personal power.
When we empower our children, they will discover for themselves that they are important and capable of finding ways to overcome any obstacle that is stopping them from achieving their goals and doing their best. As parents, it’s up to us to support our children in their unique process of discovery.