When Smart Kids Cry – Part 3
I get it.
Believe me, I do.
Before I am anything else in this world, I’m a parent. Just like my parents did, just like the many parents I’ve met along this journey of Vision Therapy have, and just like the many parents who will hopefully bring their kids to our collective offices in the future will, we would do whatever it takes to ensure and improve our children’s quality of life. Call it instinct, call it second nature, or call it a desire on some sort of primal level – we would beg, borrow, or steal for our kids. You would do it in a heartbeat, and so would I.
But what happens when that instinct creates havoc? When in the course of trying to help our kids succeed through encouragement and reassurance, we create a whole new set of problems. It’s a tough line to walk, and far be it from me to judge any parent for how they raise or speak their kids, but at times we need to intervene in the VT room. Not because our way is better, but because sometimes without calling awareness to a challenging situation, change cannot and will not occur. Yes, it can be an uncomfortable conversation, but in the end, you might be the child’s greatest advocate.
April’s mom is a fantastic parent. She and her husband both work two jobs so their three kids can go to good schools, enjoy as many extracurriculars as their young little bodies can handle, and do all the necessary therapies, treatments and interventions that might be needed. Honestly, she is one of the most dedicated and motivated mothers I’ve met in a long time – and I’ve met some great ones. In calling April’s mom into a private room, the point I hoped to make was simple – please listen to the words you’re using as if you were in April’s shoes.
“This is easy…”
“It will only take a minute…”
“You can do it…”
No, it isn’t.
No, it won’t.
No, I can’t.
To April, it’s difficult, it’s slow, and it’s next to impossible. We need to understand that first and foremost.
We’ve all been there. We’ve tried to encourage our kids, our patients, our friends and even our colleagues through a gentle verbal nudge. Our hearts are in the right place and there’s absolutely no fault in any of it. But sometimes these simple phrases can be the most damaging in therapy. As I conveyed these ideas to April’s mom, she started to cry, but she understood. Yes, I made two ladies cry inside one hour.
I suggested in trying to help April overcome her frustration, her mom try to use phrases like…
“That was a great try…”
“I like the way you were concentrating on the task…”
“What did you like about your performance?”
If April’s mom could shift her language it may prove to be huge for her little girl, because it removes the subtle judgment from your statement. When you tell her “it’s easy”, what she hears is “this should be easy, and if it isn’t, it’s a failure”. When she says it’s hard and she can’t do it, she’s being honest, and it should be taken at face value.
April and her mom left our office, both with a new understanding. April understood that I was on her side and believe she’s a smart kid, and she was smiling about it. Mom understood that the language she uses is important at this stage of the game, especially with her struggling child. They both left on positive notes, and both understood the need for change. It was a good session all the way around. I thanked them both and said goodbye.
Next patient is here. Time to keep moving. 😉