Last night I had my iPad open and my younger son clicked on something by mistake. It took me to a place where people were sharing and discussing their plans for 7th grade. My oldest son is about to go into 7th grade and he was quite interested. We took a little time to look over the different plans that each family had.
My son saw some kids who were doing pretty advanced skills in one or more areas, kids who were on grade level, kids who played several musical instruments, kids who were into tons of sports, etc. You get the idea. I love to talk with my kids about how everyone is different and it is okay for them to be themselves and for those kids to be themselves. It is very important to me for my children to see that all people have their own strengths and weaknesses.
I actually discuss this quite often with my kids. When they see or read or encounter someone with a strength or weakness, we talk about it. I ask them if it is okay if that person is awesome at math. I ask them if it is okay if the person can’t make a basket. I ask them if it is okay if someone isn’t good at math. I ask them if it is okay if the person is the star basketball player. The answer I look for is always yes.
Not only do I want my children to know and understand that it is okay to be themselves, but I also don’t want them to get in the comparison game. I don’t want them to see themselves as better or worse than someone else. I want them to see others as beautiful individuals who are unique and valuable.
My kids have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. As they have grown some of the strengths and weaknesses have been quite obvious. I have taken the approach of not pathologizing the weaknesses. I remember one visit to a doctor awhile back and the doctor asked if my child had difficulties in a certain area (personality related). I said yes. She asked me if I had gotten help for it. This was in front of the child too. I just responded that this difficulty was just a part of who my kid was and that things were fine. Do you know what? I noticed that after that doctor’s visit, my child was much more comfortable with himself and this area of difficulty wasn’t quite as difficult anymore.
The visit reminded me of how important it is to teach my children to be okay with who they were made to be. It is okay if they are good at math or if they struggle with it. It is okay if they are the life of the party or if they prefer to stay at home. It is okay for my kids to be themselves. In so doing, they are learning to opt out of the comparison game. They are learning that others can be different and that is okay.
In the past few years I’ve also seen these ideas carryover to our homeschool. My kids have different strengths in academic areas. My younger son has almost caught up to my older son in math. This doesn’t bother my oldest son in the least. In fact, a couple weeks ago they hatched a plan to let my oldest son not do math for a while so they could end up doing math together. While that plan wasn’t going to fly, I was happy that my younger son’s strength was a non-issue to my older son. He realized that his brother is different and has different strengths. At the same time, he knows he has strengths that his brother does not have.
I think a big part of learning to accept the differences of others is to first accept yourself as a unique individual with your own set of strengths and weaknesses. I will continue to do what I can to help my children be okay with who they were made to be. I will continue to teach them to opt out of comparisons and see people as valuable with all their unique qualities. People are different. And that is okay.