Hard day party
This school year has been particularly difficult for one of my children. I have been able to see them struggling with shame and with a desire to fit in. However, I didn't quite realize the extent of the toxic environment in their classroom until I recently had a run in with their teacher. I had been attempting to clarify a situation and the teacher walked out on me, refusing to discuss anything or hear what my child had to say. When I called after the teacher they returned and proceeded to get very close to my face and shame me for my actions. I knew that I was flooding quickly. I could see that my child was crying but trying to hold things together. I felt like a little child myself. I'm so glad that I've been reading "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown and "A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children" by a group of authors. Reading the two at the same time has opened my eyes, really solidified some things, and caused me to be much more mindful in my parenting. As we walked out of the school, I got down on my child's level and reminded them that they mattered, their voice mattered, and they deserved to be heard. I realized, when finishing up the "Daring Greatly" book this weekend, that I had felt like a child in that moment because I was being reminded of times I, too, had been shamed by a teacher- and the subsequent fear of authority and certain teachers that resulted.
I've had that classroom shame culture on my mind. It's too late in the school year to make a change. There are only about 30 actual school days left. However, I can make extra efforts to combat things from home. I have also become pretty focused on taking steps to ensure a better environment for next school year.
I have four gifted children. Some of them go beyond that and fit the distinctions & qualifications for being deemed highly gifted. This equates to them having a greater natural inclination toward perfectionism as well as a greater susceptibility to shame. I would know. I was that kid and it's still my Achilles heel. I have become increasingly convinced that for long-term success and 'health' it is key for individuals to be taught not just about good choices vs bad choices, but that they be given the tools for shame resilience.
That's what I want to teach my kids.
To that end, we started a new tradition today. I knew that one of my kids was going to have to face some hard things at school, as they expressed nervousness at it prior to the school day. I also spent my day doing many things that felt difficult and outside of my comfort zone. In the book 'Daring Greatly' Brene Brown shares the story of her daughter melting down about being late to school and them having a 'tardy party'- basically celebrating surviving being less than perfect. Well, we are going to have random 'parties' to celebrate things like making mistakes, doing hard things, being vulnerable, overcoming (or working through) a fear etc. I want my children to grow up valuing hard work, perseverance, wholeheartedness, and empathy. All those shame resilience things. Plus, this seems like a great way to attach some meaning to the times we do something out of the ordinary- like going to the movies or having ice cream cones or getting a new game. Each person took turns sharing something hard that they did today (like making phone calls when that's uncomfortable, talking to an intimidating adult, standing up to a bully, completing a difficult task)--we learned some things about each other as well as validated the hard for each other. Maybe it was just me, but it was kind of awesome in my book. I'm really looking forward to our future 'parties'. I told the kids we would have a challenge to make three mistakes in a day and to celebrate that. They were cringing and visibly uncomfortable at that notion. Yep, I think we all need this.