When my Words Tear Down my Child

“Intelligent children listen to their parents; foolish children do their own thing. The good acquire a taste for helpful conversation; bullies push and shove their way through life. Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” Proverbs 13:1-3 (MSG)

“Do you want to fail third grade and have to do it over again? Because that is what will happen if you don’t start paying attention. How could you not turn in your homework after we spent 3 hours on it last night!” These horrid words seeped from my mouth before my brain could stop them. My sweet son, sat hunched over the table, with tears streaming from his eyes. I was saying the exact words that I advise parents never to say to their child.

In my frustration of a long day at work, coming home to a messy house, and no idea of what I would make for dinner, I carelessly allowed my words to flow. These words had the power of tearing my child down. All day, I speak words that build up other people’s children. My students are spoken to in an uplifting and careful manner. My purpose is to build them up and help them see that success is within reach. In this moment, I did not listen to my Father, and allowed my foolish tongue to do its own thing. It tore down my child’s self-esteem.

God blessed me with a sweet precious son that learns differently. He struggles with ADD and dyslexia. School has always been hard for him. I see so much of myself in him because I too have dyslexia and struggled through school. If I understood his challenges, then why did I say cutting words instead of helpful words to give him hope and a plan to get organized? The answer is Satan. He wants to use our words to belittle and tear down our relationships.
In James 1:19 we are told to, “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” As a Christian, I need to remind myself of this in every interaction with others. My emotions have a way of blocking my ears from the truth, my mouth to speak before thinking, and igniting a flame of anger that is not true to who God created me to be.

I not only had to repent, but also spend much time healing the cuts that my words caused in my son. Those words can not be taken back, but can be made a distant memory. Their pain can hopefully fade with time, as I speak truth, love, and most importantly God’s plan for his life to build him up and never tear him down again.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of being a mother. I ask for your forgiveness. My words were toxic and harmful to my son. I did not intend to speak them, but allowed my flesh to take hold of my tongue. Please guide me and give me pause in every interaction with him. Allow me opportunities to speak life into him and help grow my son’s faith in you. In Jesus name, Amen.

Truth for Today:
Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (NKJV)

Reflect and Respond:
What words can you speak to your child today to build them up?

Today, pick something to praise about your child like a character trait, school assignment, kind word given, or action that will build your child up. Tell them how much they are loved and that God created them exactly the way they are.

Dyslexia – a Disability or a Difference?

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

I sat across from a mother with tears in her eyes. Her daughter had just been diagnosed with dyslexia and a few other challenges. The wordy scientific books recommended to her were daunting. She searched for an understanding and jokingly asked if there was a Dyslexia for Dummies book to read. This resonated with me for two reasons. The first reason being that there is no simple way to explain the intricate processing of the dyslexic’s brain. The other is that our children learning to live with dyslexia have probably felt like “dummies” before.

The word dyslexia means trouble with words. We need to impress this definition into our children’s minds. They are not dumb or less of a person because they struggle. Many call dyslexia a disability. Disability means not able to do something. Our children do have the ability to read, write, and learn. They just do it differently. This is why we should describe it as a learning difference. We all learn to tie our shoes differently, but we end up with the same result. It does not matter if it was made with bunny ears, loop over loop, or cross over and go through the hole. It’s a tied shoe that will not fall off.

Our children will learn, but we need to be patient. They may process sounds, letters, word, or directions in a different manner. They have such an amazingly complex network of neurons, that it may take a bit longer than you would expect to process information. As a parent and a teacher, I have to remind myself to stop, wait a minute, and maybe even describe a sound or word in a different manner to get those neurons connecting. Give your child the time. Do not assume they are zoning out or choosing to be difficult. I am pretty positive that they do not want to be different.

As you embark on this journey of acceptance and parenting a different learner, please be an advocate for you child. Advocate for them to try new things, spend more time doing what they are good at, and give them tools to make it through school. Work with your child’s teachers to explain that your child may need to access information and/or be assessed in a different manner than others.

I will be honest, that I struggle with the advice some parents are given when seeking a program to help their child with dyslexia. Some have been told teachers should never require their child to use a dictionary, take a spelling test, write in any subject, or have any homework. It seems futile to fight for a child to not be labeled disabled, but then treat them as disabled.

School is practice for life. There are modifications that can be made to keep your child from feeling like they are not able to learn. Shorten the list of spelling words, excuse them from mindless writing of the spelling words 10 times each, and then after the spelling test, give them tools to make corrections. The teacher should circle the missed words, then let your child use a spell checker, a laptop with spell check, or even a word wall. The goal is to get your child to try. We want them to understand they learn differently, and have the right to use different tools to help them learn.

Set a time limit when your child is writing. Let them know you understand writing is difficult, but want them to practice. After the kitchen timer beeps, scribe for your child, and then write the teacher a note detailing how long they wrote, and then you wrote exactly what your child said. Do not autocorrect their writing or interject your thoughts, because the teacher knows your child struggles with spelling and writing and can spot your work immediately. Set your child up with talk to text or a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking if their fingers can not keep up with their imaginative writing.

You have the opportunity to take a situation that many of you have grieved about and turn it into something wonderful. Yes, your kid learns differently. Some people need glasses to see and hearing aids to hear, but they can still live a full life. Teach your child how to work hard and embrace their differences, because those differences are what will make your child shine in life. Each obstacle they overcome, each time they have to work harder than their peers, each tear of frustration shed is brightening their light and creating a star beautifully different from others.

Practice

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prac·tice
Verb – perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

Have you ever caught yourself telling your child that practice makes perfect? I have been guilty of this a time or two. Recently, I was running a parent teacher conference; the child’s parent mentioned the phrase “practice makes better”. It started a chain of thoughts running through my head for days.

I realized that as parents, we take our children to multiple practices weekly and some of you multiple practices daily. Parents ensure their child practices baseball, soccer, football, dance, and even academic work like spelling words or multiplication facts. Growing up is full of practice. Sometimes, we require our child to continue practicing even if he or she would like to quit. Because our parents taught us never to be a quitter, right?

Conversely, as we become adults, the idea of practice seems to drift from our minds. We have jobs to do, money to make, and if we have not learned a skill by now, then we assume that we never will. I think we need to grasp on to the “practice makes better” concept and live out what we preach.

Parenting is hard. We are not guaranteed our child will mind, listen when we speak, stay out of trouble, be an A+ student, or be able to grow into an independent adult. Parenting also includes the ability to repeatedly interact and improve our child’s life. Their childhood is a gift of time. It is a set parameter of years that we need to use as our practice.

When our daughter, Piper, first started therapy at the Foundation for Blind Children, we were told to be patient. They explained that due to her lack of vision and poor muscle tone, it could take her 1,000 to 10,000 times to learn a skill that typical kids could learn in about 20 practices. Her response times were delayed severely. I would ask her to pick up a toy from my hand, and when she did not respond, it became frustrating. It was easy to pull my hand away, a minute after asking her to pick it up, and assume she did not want the toy. However, being patient revealed that it took her about 2 minutes to process the command, tell her hand to move where it needed to, and keep her body from falling over. If I had not continued this practice, she would have given up and assumed she would fail.

As parents, we need to practice daily. We need to practice patience, practice listening to our child, practice having hope in their future. Please do not pull your hand or heart away when your child does not respond. It may take your child multiple practices to become the better that they can be in this life. None of us are perfect, but those that practice compassion, empathy, and hope seem to have a better ability to handle life.

Keep practicing!

Labels

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la·bel
1. a small piece of paper, fabric, plastic, or similar material attached to an object and giving information about it.

Many parents fear the “label”. They do not want their child to be seen as a word on paper like dyslexic, specific learning disabled, ADHD, executive function disordered, autistic, bipolar…. This label is embarrassing to some, heartbreaking to others, and creates stabs of guilt that it is probably your fault. Guess what??? THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!

This is about your child. It is giving information about how they learn, how they thrive, how they make sense of school, and what makes their learning different. As a society, we spend so much time honoring the differences in people’s ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Yet, some parents try to hide the very differences that make their child special and unique.

As an educator and parent of two amazingly special children, I am here to tell you to get over yourself. You created this wonderful human being, unlike any other, and you want to hide their differences. The answer to your fears and struggles is simple. It’s car keys.

What? Yes, car keys. Think of your darling child as a car. A hybrid made from your very own DNA. They are unlike any other. There is one key that starts their car. One key that ignites their desire and ability to learn. One key that allows their engine to fire. Why would you not give their teacher the key to start your child’s car? If  you hide your child’s difference or refuse to seek an evaluation to figure out why they are struggling, you are hiding that key. You are wasting a year of learning that could be taking place. You are basically handing the teacher a key ring full of keys and saying, “Good luck. Hope you find the right one!”

Teachers love their students. Okay, maybe not all teachers, but I do and my friends do too! We want to help your child. We want to help them see success as attainable. We do NOT want to tear them down and make them feel like failures. So, when a teacher suggests that there is something concerning or confusing about they way your child is developing, listen to them. Please do not take it as a finger pointing that you have not done your job. Teachers are not neuropsychologists able to see into your sweet child’s brain and pinpoint why they are not focused, able to decode a word, or remember the three little things she/he asked them to do.

They are actually just as worried as you parents. They worry they let you down by not figuring out how to help your child learn. This is one hard part of my job as the coordinator of a resource program in a private school. I need the teachers to be honest with you. They are often afraid to burst your bubble of pride by saying your child is struggling. It is truly important to find the learning differences and remediate as soon as possible. Your child’s mental cement is still wet in their early years. It can be molded and supported in the manner they need. Do not wait to help mold them because feeling like a failure and dumb is one of the hardest mindsets to overcome.

Please consider finding the key to start your child’s car and giving that key to their teacher. Do not waste another year making the teacher figure out how your child learns. Start your child’s engine and watch them speed along the road of learning. There will still be speed bumps and traffic, but you will have given your child the chance to navigate their learning. Actually, they will be learning to navigate the rest of their life.