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Don’t Go Breaking My Chart

The Set Up

Sometimes, I think that our generation is the worst one; this is even in comparison with the spoiled kids that are running around today. I believe that our parents were the last generation (as a whole) that really worked hard. Don’t misunderstand me: there are folks from our crew that put in their time; but I think that a good number of us were spoiled by our own parents, resulting in a flippant attitude towards things like jobs and parenting.

It makes it much harder for those of us who believe in an active parenting process – one that hopefully has a positive outcome – when many kids are essentially taught that it is much easier to put others down than it is to actually improve their own character (and take responsibility for their own actions). This probably sounds ridiculous to some of you – but rest assured that it is not. The damage that is dealt by this sort of group mindset is very tangible.

Preachy? Maybe. But imagine what it might be like when your own child has no faith in themselves. Imagine when your kid doesn’t think that they are worth very much because other kids get away with all kinds of bullshit at home and then deal it out at school to those that actually choose to do the work.

Recently, at the dinner table, Little J spoke about how she was a bad person, backing up her opinion with examples of some of her negative characteristics – and comparing herself to other kids at school with less-then-stellar behaviour. Apparently, some of the other kids at school were trying to make her feel bad for something that she did by accident; she didn’t understand why they did this, but with some questioning, we figured out that it had been happening somewhat frequently. Really, it is the kind of thing I remember happening to me.

Our kiddo has a big heart; she tends to embrace other kids who can’t speak up for themselves; she has a sense of fairness that is so strong that she’s willing to give anyone a fair shake – even those that torment her. Every once in a while, though, it tends to wear on her – it makes her vulnerable, and she ends up spending too much time focusing on the bad, even though she is a very good kid.

So, how do you make your child feel better about themselves without turning them into an ego-maniac?

Chart Attack

We erased Little J’s chalkboard (that she uses for doodling) and drew a two-column chart with a header for “good things” and one for “bad things” (these could be behaviours or just general characteristics). Then, we each took turns listing one good thing and one bad thing. It was all done honestly, but without any cruelty.

In the “good” column, we had attributes like “cares about other people”,”intelligent” and “creative”. In the “bad” column we had things like “doesn’t listen sometimes”, or “doesn’t eat enough vegetables”. Eventually we had something like six things in the “bad” column, and six things in the “good” column.

I asked Little J if she could think of any more bad things – and she could not; neither could we. So, we kept listing good things. Eventually, we filled the “good” column. Of course, that wasn’t the end of all of the good things, so we had to make room by shortening the “bad” column. “Oh, ” we would say, “We just thought of one more good thing, but where can we write it? Let’s erase one of these bad things.” This went on until the bad column was completely gone, replaced by good things.

The lesson, we told her, was that everyone has a good column and a bad column. When one has a few bad qualities, and many good ones, the negative attributes tend to be overshadowed by the positive ones. In fact, for some people the bad column pretty much disappears because there are so many good things to look at.

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