Written by Lisa Cook
Published on Worry Proof MD by Cara Natterson
The other night I was helping my 8 year old with his spelling homework. Full disclosure – he’s not the best speller and I’m not the best homework helper but together we’re managing to appease his teacher without killing each other in the process.
So he was spelling a sentence and misspelled the word ‘through’ which by the way he has had to practice eleven thousand million times this year and he misspelled it again. And I corrected it again and I said ‘you’ve written this word so many times already you should know how to spell it!’ and his response was ‘why should I know? I’m only 8!’
I thought ‘oh my god Lisa!’ I couldn’t even come up with a good enough answer not to embarrass myself so I responded ‘you’re absolutely right. I apologize.’ which of course he loved.
Why SHOULD he know how to spell a word just because I think he should know? When I’m working with children in the water I never approach any skill development with ‘you’re five, you should know that by now’ or to deal with a parent saying ‘he’s been taking lessons for two months, he should know how to do that by now’.
Really? I’ve been practicing portion control for forty years and I still haven’t’ figured out how to have just one Lays potato chip. I’ve been doing my own banking for thirty years and I still never have as much money left over at the end of the month as I think I should.
Our whole world is a wrestling match between what we ‘should’ be doing and what we’re ‘actually’ doing. Or worse yet, in this instance, our children are constantly having to take on the weight of what their parents and teachers and other adults think they ‘should be doing’ as opposed to what they are actually capable of in real time.
At kidSwim we never teach to the should. We always teach to the child. Really and truly. You have to take that child where THAT child is at developmentally, emotionally and physically and then you also have to factor in their temperament, character, mood, and abilities and work with all that incorporated into the lessons.
Teaching to the should is frustrating for everyone. Teaching to the child allows for small and large successes on a regular basis. Our children deserve to have the time to figure things out for themselves in ways that make sense to them, on their timeline as much as possible. Eventually, my son will figure out a way to remember how to spell ‘through’ so that he won’t forget. Until then, I have to be patient and trust the process.
Which doesn’t mean I won’t be wrestling with that come homework time but I’ll keep it to myself.