I spoke with the parent of a student I have today, who (unintentionally) reminded me of what “progress” looks like.
What it actually looks like.
You see, sometimes we get so wrapped up in how wrong our kids’ behavior is in this phase of life that we forget that it is, in fact, just a phase in his/her life. It is only exactly this way for exactly this moment, and every day… it changes.
They progressed to this point, and they will progress beyond this point.
In the case of my student from today, a foster child who was severely abused as a child, progress has looked different than most. When people meet him now, they tend to see a boy who steals sometimes, a kid who doesn’t use physical boundaries appropriately, a child who is an emotional roller coaster, and a psychological manipulator.
But what they don’t often see is that he used to growl as a form of communication. He now speaks with clarity most of the time, often putting a name to his emotions after he has become upset. He steals less than he used to. He manipulates less than he used to. He stays calm more than he used to.
He still isn’t capable of building true, reciprocal relationships, but he is at least willing to communicate his thoughts/feelings and express attachment to certain people. He still steals, but he thinks of doing it less often. He still has explosive emotions, but he slows them down and names them more quickly than he used to.
All of those things are progress!
And in five years, he will be even further down the road than he is now. He will blow me away with how much he has grown and changed.
I think by then, he’ll be able to keep himself calm when someone looks at him in a “funny” way. I think he’ll be able to make it through an entire school day without crying or napping. I think he’ll be able to trust that people will stay in his life for long periods of time. I think he’ll know when to not lay his head on people.
Those would all be AMAZING accomplishments for him considering the start he was given in life.
Does his progress look the same as other kids his age? Not even close. But it still looks like forward movement, which is all that we need it to be. Change is something to be thankful for, no matter how small.
Speaking with this boy’s foster mom today reminded me that I shouldn’t get so hung up on how aggressive my three-year-old is right now. She’s still more sympathetic and patient than she was a year ago. And it’s okay that she’s not as sensitive as her sister. Her progress should only be determined by a comparison to her former self, not a comparison to her sister’s former self.
I also shouldn’t worry quite so much about whether or not she knows her ABC’s or can count to twenty. A couple years from now, she’ll have all of that mastered.
And I probably shouldn’t feel so guilty about the fact that she can count to twenty–very well, in fact–because every time she goes to time out, she has to count to twenty (calmly) before she can get up.
She gets LOTS of counting practice.
I shouldn’t really care so much whether or not my six-year-old wants to be smart because she wants to be the best. I shouldn’t lay awake at night trying to decipher the inner workings of her heart. That’s a difference I deeply care about, but if I’m continually speaking truth into her, she will gradually understand and change.
I don’t need to worry about it happening right now.
They will learn.
They will grow.
They will progress.
If we, as parents, are pushing forward, little by little, they will push forward to. Worrying, wondering, researching, and panicking over their current behaviors will not make them go away. Our fretting will not help our children reach their full potentials. (Or our students, for that matter!)
The only thing that will help our kids mature and become better is our continual pursuit of educational truth in their lives. As long as we’re trying, they’ll be just fine. In five years, the worries we have about them right now won’t even be in our brains anymore.
We’ll have completely new concerns about who they are, what they’re doing, and where they’ll end up.
As long as we’re putting in an effort, there will be fruit from our planting.
And if you’re reading this blog, odds are, you’re putting in all the effort they need. Good job, guys.