Friday, April 12, 2013

Snowflakes and Potato Chips

My kids are not all the same.  They have different likes and dislikes.  They are talented in some areas and not in others.  They enjoy different activities and dread different tasks.  Kids are just different.  Like snowflakes and potato chips.

I never realized how much I tried to fit my kids into molds.  I knew what I wanted them to look like, how I wanted them to act and how I wanted other people to view them.  I worked long and hard pressing them into those molds and all I had to show for it was empty molds.

It was a waste of my time and a detriment to them.  

It wasn't long into the process that I realized this was not the way to go.  They didn't need to look and act exactly like me.  They needed to be who God created them to be.  He had already made me.  There didn't need to be another me.  There needed to be a Hannah and an Ashley and an Amy. 

So what was I supposed to do?  They were kids that needed some work.  They were a mess at home and a mess at school.  I was miserable with them.  Their teachers were miserable with them.  They needed to be different, but that didn't mean they needed to be different people.  They needed to be the best versions of themselves that they could be.

Don't we all strive for that?  Aren't we always looking for ways to eat healthier, learn something new and help others?  As teachers, aren't we looking for ways to improve in the classroom?  We want better classroom management, more engaging lessons, and students who get excited to come to our class.

No two teachers are alike, but that doesn't mean there's only one great teacher.  It means there is more than one way to be great.  The same is true for our kids. 

So, here I was, my first time on the adoption ride.  I was the parent of that hard-to-handle kid.  I'm not talking about a "has trouble staying in his seat" kid or a "needs to work on following directions" kid.  I had the rolling on the floor, throwing things, screaming inappropriate things kid.  Let's just say, Hannah was not striving to be her best.

With all the crazy behavior every day, it was easy to focus on what she was doing.  I was concentrating on keeping her quiet and in her seat.  I was not helping her get better, I was teaching her to look how I wanted her to look.  There is a difference.  For a solid year I changed her behavior without focusing on her heart.  I was cleaning the outside of the cup, so to speak.

What was I missing?  Her character.  One day God showed me that I was putting all my efforts in the wrong place.  I needed to work on her character, not her behavior.  Don't get me wrong, the behavior still had to change, I just needed to take another route to get there.

I started by referring to us as a team.  No longer was it Hannah against Mom.  It was now the two of us working together to make better choices and be better versions of ourselves.  Did her behavior change immediately?  No.  Were there days it seemed we took two steps forward and four steps back?  Yes.  Progress wasn't always steady, but we kept pushing forward.  

Hannah just turned sixteen this week.  Those hard fought battles are behind us now.  There are things she does and says that are just like me and there are things that are nothing like me at all.  I love both.  She is exactly who God designed her to be.  She adds something to our family that only she could bring.  It comes together with what Ashley, Amy and I have to offer and becomes something that we wouldn't be able to create on our own.

So what are you focusing on?  Are you attempting to get your kids' or students' behavior under control?  Do more than change the outside to make it look how you want it to look.  The work is the same whether you reach their hearts or not.  Might as well build a little character in the process.  Go beyond teaching to the behavior and teach to the heart.  Recognize that each kid has qualities and characteristics that only they possess.  It's not about creating look-a-likes, it's about helping kids realize who they are and who they were created to be.  

And as much as I thought I wanted little versions of me, I much prefer the mix of daughters God has blessed me with.  Each of them add something wonderful and amazing and help me strive to be the best version of me that I can be!

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