April 27, 2012

My kid's a genius. And so is yours.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Albert Einstein


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 persevere.
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 recycle.
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.


  1. You are amazing. This was the first thing I read when I woke up this morning and it just made me feel good. Chooch has been going this "Everyone hates me!" phase which is pretty alarming, and I always try to convince him otherwise, but the things on this list will be wonderful examples to give him.

    (And Nature Boy is super adorable!)

    1. Awww, thanks! I am now singing, We Got Handsome Kidlets to the tune of "Jungle Fever".

      Sorry Chooch is going through that phase. I so wish we could infuse our kids with the way WE see them when they get down like that. An "If you could see you the way I see you" kinda thing.

      I wonder if kids have always struggled with self-esteem. Did pioneer kids get down on themselves because they couldn't hunt as well as their older siblings? Or did it just make them practice more and try harder?

      Maybe our society's definition of success has become so limited that only a small segment of the kid population can actually meet it. :(

  2. I love this. My older son just came out with this overwhelming desire to be famous. He does not say that out loud or even truly acknowledge it, but he has tried everything under the sun to see if he's some kind of prodigy at it. I just want him to know that he rocks, famous or not.

    1. Thanks, Jessica. I know what you mean. My son goes through this sometimes too. I just figured that he REALLY DOES want to be famous, but maybe your take on it is more down to earth! :D Maybe it's really a way for them to explore what's special about themselves. I wonder if there's a book out there along the lines of, "Helping Your Child Discover His or Her Unique Gifts". I'd read it!

  3. Danielle, Thank you so much for writing this. I mean it.

    You know from reading my post about Resume Builders v. Person Builders http://youknowwhatmama.blogspot.com/2012/03/resume-building-v-person-building.html and another, I think, that we have a couple of folks in this family who ONLY adhere to the "Magic 4." They ONLY want to know about the "Magic 4" and actually become annoyed if I try to steer their question about the "Magic 4" into any of those things you listed regarding the girls.

    This is generally annoying to me not because my children don't meet the "Magic 4"--but for deeply held philosophical beliefs that I have -- the same beliefs maybe that led you to write this post and me to write Resume Builder v. Person Builders. But less abstractedly and more practically consequential is the fact that I have a kidlet in my family who is developmentally challenged. The "resume builders" in my family always claim to honor who he is, but their words are empty because they're always trying to figure out ways and means to make him "more magic 4ish" --even when that means breaking his heart doing it.

    His mother is not one of these folks. His mother is on the side of wisdom and love (that's our side, of course) and my heart breaks when I see her struggling with his father and his blood family to protect her precious son from their ways and when I see what they are willing, with the best of intentions in this society that values only Magic 4, to do TO him to make him something that "fits" the 4. Related, but a different tragedy, is that while they are busy trying to smash into one or the other magical 4 categories, they don't see any of the things that are your aptly stated list -- many of which is So Who He Is. He is a darling, sweet, kind, interested, curious, loving to all species and ages, and SO many other things person and they miss all that trying to make him fit somewhere in so they can recite his resume of qualifications that fit into categories 1 through 4 and 1 through 4 only.

    I am directing his mother to this post and I know that it makes her life easier knowing there are in fact other pepole in the world who value folks for more than the Magic 4.

    On another, less personal, note -- In thinking about the Magic 4 specifically, it occurred to me they're all self-centered or add less relationally/heart valuable things to the world than the things you listed. I"m still thinking a bit on that idea. ...

    Again, thank you for writing this. I'm the choir and I appreciated it. I wish we could preach it to all the resume builders minimizing our children out there. Sigh.

    1. This has to be one of the best comments I've received! Thanks for writing it. (And I hope it's okay that I published this one.)

      It makes me sad when folks can't get beyond the Magic 4. Especially in relation to children. And especially when it comes from their family. Because kids already feel/know what the world values--home and family should be their haven from the impersonal focus on accomplishments. But too often, it's an extension of it. And at least doubly painful when children are struggling with real challenges like learning disabilities, motor delays, mental illness, and the like.

      When success depends on output and productiveness and easily quantitative methods of evaluation, those kids fall through the cracks.

      But what needs to change is the definition of success, not the children themselves. Because we aren't robots. God didn't create us to be machines. He gifted each of us with something special. And parents and other loved ones are given the task of helping the kids in our lives to discover what they've been gifted with. If we don't do that, WE are the failures.

    2. Sometimes I comment right away because it's easy to know what to say. But sometimes I think on and think on and think on your words. I wish I could right click some of the specific things above that you wrote that make the foundation we both agree on even more full and strong in my mind and heart.

      ..."home and family should be their haven from teh impersaonl focus on accomplishments" ...

      and your concluding paragraph!!! If I do not Honor Grace and Dinah for Who GOD MADE them to be, if I overlook His Greatness in them because I'm too busy looking at some kind of Magic 4 checklist of goals and benchmarks etc., etc., etc., then I am the failure. I have failed in making sure that my heart, brain and body match up with His Plan; which is infinite, not limited to 4 categories on a checklist.

      This concluding paragraph, as well as your thoughts on christianunschooling a couple of weeks ago about not using your life to remediate children, but to grow them in God's design of them, has really brought the idea of building people over building resumes onto a totally different plain. A Higher plain, the highest plain.

      I was committed to the idea of building up my children, focusing on that which makes them so incredible, telling them daily in specificity, focusing on those things that they find valuable, focusing on those things that God finds valuable.... All of that. But your thoughts on the matter has really brought my thinking to a different level. Because, whereas good thoughts and philosophies based on good human thoughts are good -- like all of my thoughts herein -- these are still thoughts based on my own definitions, my own changeable (because they're mine. I can change them whenever I want.), malleable, corruptible, able to be abandoned -- this is the basic problem with all "goodness" and "morality" based on human endeavor and human definition. And as "committed" as I was to my own defined morality of building my children up, my committment can never be divine. It is God's Way, as you have so aptly and succinctly reminded me, that is The Ultimate Reason I shall honor Grace and Dinah. I honor them, not because they are my children whom I love, not because I am committed and thoughtful about building them up in the ways that they are extraordinary -- but becasue they are God's Children, His Creation, created for the plans He has for Dinah and for Grace.

      I was so busy thinking Big Good Human Mama thoughts on these matters that I totally overlooked Biggest Best Heavenly Father thoughts on these matters.

      Wow!! You have really done something in this family. Thanks.

      Again with the longer than expected comment (; I am going to be putting something about these thoughts of ours in this comment thread in my blog. These moments of clarity are meant to be recorded for my family --so taht when things get murky, I can look back (; I also feel a big sign in fancy lettering going up in the family room and by the kitchen sink (:

    3. I absolutely LOVE this list! You're right. Too often we try to put kids in these little boxes. My kids are never the best ones on their sports team, but they're always the first ones to ask if someone is okay if they get hurt. And that makes me prouder than anything!

  4. Fabulous post. I'm inspired and confirmed simultaneously.

  5. I love YOUR list! There are so many on there - all! LOL - that I shook my head and said, "Yep! That's it!"

    1. Thank you very much. I have a tender heart for kids who struggle. Life (and people!) are often unkind to them. When did personal success become all about accomplishments and production? (The Industrial Revolution?)

  6. Hi, I just found your blog from Christianunschooling. I love this post. Thank you. Sincerely, Patti H. Livonia, Michigan

    1. You're welcome, Patti. Thank you for visiting! And for loving my post!

  7. Love this post! Totally agree!

    1. Awesome! We need more of us, huh? :D