I love Albert Einstein's views on learning. He was an out-of-the-box thinker. And a little bit of a goofball.
The quote above really speaks to me. (Thanks, Al.) What an affirming message for kids who struggle with our society's limited definition of childhood success.
Kids basically have 4 ways to be declared a pint-sized success.
Society's Magic 4:
1. Be an athlete.
2. Be a music or art prodigy.
3. Be really attractive.
4. Get really good grades in school.
When they meet one or more of these criteria, life is easier. They get kudos and gold stars and blue ribbons and good report cards. People smile at them more often. They have more friends. Their parents brag in their hearing or put bumper stickers on their minivans.
(P.S. Nature Boy totally nails #3, so please don't mistake me for a bitter parent. :D )
The truth is, there are many, many ways to be a success. Our kids need to hear this. Over and over. And we need to believe it.
How do we help our kids find their inner superheroes?
The best place to start is right where they are. "What the world needs now" is whatever gift your child brings to the table. If he's a fish, let him be a fish. If he's a tree climber, let him climb the s#!t out of that tree.
But it doesn't stop there.
We have to learn to value whatever it is that makes our kids special. We have to look beyond society's Magic 4 and celebrate our kids' inherent awesomeness even if they have two left feet, can't play a note or hold a paintbrush, and have giant Charlie Brown heads.
If we value more than the Magic 4, our kids will too.
So I propose a revised list of possible childhood success markers. Feel free to add your own.
Hey, Kid! You Rock If...
You are genuinely a nice person.
You help others when you can.
You are polite.
You have eyeballs. (Everyone's eyes are gorgeous.)
You are kind to animals.
You have a good imagination.
You help around the house without attitude.
You stand up for what is right.
You are nice to the kids other kids don't like.
You have a good sense of humor.
You smile at folks.
You passionately follow your interests.
You create things.
You build things.
You take things apart to see how they work.
You laugh a lot.
You make other people laugh.
You are friendly with old folks.
You are patient with younger kids.
You don't litter.
You care about the environment.
You like spending time in nature.
You are curious.
You are a fast learner.
You take your time.
You are a good conversationalist.
You are a good storyteller.
You are a good listener.
You take good care of your stuff.
You like to work with your hands.
You follow the rules.
You respectfully question the rules.
You love music.
You love art.
You love politics.
You love animals.
You love books.
You love people.
You care about the less fortunate.
You try your best.
You have a strong faith.
And my personal fave:
You think your mom is cool.