In the Era of the Superkid, it can be a lonely road parenting an Average Child. And boy, nothing makes you confront “average” like the college admissions process. Several conversations I’ve had recently reminded me to go dig up a column I wrote several years ago for Oprah.com . When you hear other parents talk, it seems like every other child but yours ( and mine!) is an academically-gifted, award-winning pianist who started a foundation for rescue dogs while averaging 17 points a game as power forward. What if your child is, gasp, normal? Relax. Here’s some advice on raising a (great) average kid:
Cultivate Perspective Your kids have at least 18 years in your care. That’s a long time for them to become the happy, healthy human beings we all hope for. Their long-term prospects are not determined by whether they can read at age four or not! When it comes to fostering development, remember the phrase: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. As a parent, you have a long time to do your job and see results. Don’t rush them or yourself!
Focus on the Positive Easy to say, harder to pull off in a society where the focus is on SATs and GPAs. But look at the whole child, beyond numbers. Is she kind to younger siblings? Does he play guitar and write his own songs? Is she a terrific public speaker? Every child is great at something. Remember the unquantifiable qualities you admire in your child at report card time.
Understand their Strengths They are their own people, not little versions of you! Genetics is no guarantee they will inherit your talents. If you love books, it may devastate you if your son is not a reader. (Guilty as charged!) You love math; Junior hates numbers. You were captain of the lacrosse team; your daughter prefers ballet. I know it’s tough, but try to get over it! Let them find their own passions
Disengage from Comparisons The conversations amongst parents comparing children are endless. Who should make the travel team? Who has the better voice in the school play? Who got into what pre-school? Getting caught up in the drama can create anxiety about how your own kid measures up. Keep a safe distance from these sorts of conversations. Give your child some space to grow at their own pace.
Find a Guinea Pig Mom Befriend a mom whose kids are a little bit older than yours and she is a little bit wiser than you– a big sister, a down-to-earth neighbor, a college roommate. This is your Parenting Guinea Pig. She can give you the “Been There, Done That, with Varying Degrees of Success” reality check that you need to manage your expectations. Listen to her hard-won advice.
Any advice you want to share? Please do.
Embracing my chaos, Lian