Listen, not Label
All 20 girls are sprawled out in a split – I look and see FK laying on her back with her legs pointed straight to the ceiling!
This was our first experience of gymnastics class.
Honestly, I did not know what she was doing. I wanted to help, I wanted to step in and ask her Why? … but she did not seem upset and I knew she wanted to be in the class and would be upset at my intervention – so I resisted …
I may not have known what she was doing with those legs in the air … but I did know what she was NOT doing. I knew she was NOT purposefully trying to ‘disobey’. She wanted to be there, just like she had wanted to do be in dance class before. I watched her study her dance teacher for a year, doing her best to learn the correct moves. I knew her heart was in this, she wanted to do it and do it well. .. there had to be a why ….
The rest of the class had similar ‘odd’ happenings, but even though the teacher must have called her name 20 times to attempt to ‘fix’ her – FK never seemed emotionally upset by any of it. So I continued to hold my tongue and just watch, as my heart silently raced inside.
Afterwards, I asked her how she liked it and she said it was just WONDERFUL – no details, just that it was so very wonderful. I tried to tell myself that was all that mattered – that she liked it, but I could not shake the concern over ‘why’ she had done what she did.
I mean, to be quite honest, she looked like the kid that was purposefully trying to disrupt the class. Trying to do the opposite of what the teacher said. From the outside in, that is how it appeared – but I know this child from the inside out and I KNEW that was not the case. I just so wanted to know why – but all I got from her was it was sooo wonderful … I knew there was more to it …
So that night, during our Penelopie story, I talked about Penelopie going to gymnastics for the first time and how she stuck her legs in the air when the other ants (Penelopie is an ant 😉 ) did a split like the teacher had requested …
FK cut me off here and began to share …
She started crying and said that she could not understand what the teacher wanted her to do. She said she tried to do it, but she just could not figure it out. So she decided that if she could not do what the teacher said, that she would do something she could do well instead.
This ‘move’ of her legs in the air was a very well thought out gymnastics move in her mind – one she had created at home and it was just as much a valid ‘move’ as the split was.
She was obviously upset that she did not understand how to do the moves like the teacher did, but the way she had handled herself during the experience just amazed me …
As a child, if I had been confused I would have likely just sat there and done nothing, but she did the exact opposite. She did what she could do and she did it well. In fact, that is what happened during the entire class – now that I reflect on it with more understanding.
Every time she appeared to be ‘acting out’ she was in fact putting 100% of her sincere self into exactly what it was she was doing. She wanted to put 100% of her self into what the teacher asked her to do, but she could not understand how to do that – so instead she picked something she could do and put 100% into that.
Thank goodness I discovered the ‘why’ behind the behavior, rather than correcting the behavior itself! .. It is very important to me that she remains willing to put 100% of herself into everything she does – no matter if it is a ‘move’ made up by someone else or an original ‘move’ made up by her own self. I would never want to dull that inner light this IS my daughter! …
Now, we definitely have a plan as to how to help her better understand how to do the moves the teacher is doing – I will share more as it evolves – but my real reason for sharing this is to point out how easy it is to ‘label’ a kid as a problem child, or class clown or the one that is always acting out, trying to get attention … etc etc …
I know my kid, but even I did not know why she was behaving as she did until she opened up during our Penelopie story time … and I would have never known had I not listened to her explanation of why, and allowed it to come when she was ready to share it.
How many times do we really listen to what our kid has to say? .. or our partner in life? or our horse? or our inner Self?
We are slow to listen and quick to label.
I guess it kind of makes sense, labeling comes from our own thoughts, and pushing those thoughts onto someone else is easy to do. Listening comes from muting our thoughts to hear those of another – not so easy to do at all.
Labeling is much more of a reflection on the label-er than the one being labeled, but it can mold the way the one being labeled views herself forever …
My child could have easily been labeled the ‘difficult one’ as a result of how she behaved during gymnastics. Once we are labeled a certain way we begin to think it is true. A child that was only attempting to express herself starts to think she is ‘difficult’ because she is told she is difficult – as time goes on she begins to resemble that remark.
Instead of labeling, we should take the time to listen. Show our children that it is ok to tell us their ‘why’ – We must offer them the time they need to explain themselves, no matter how long that takes. We must take the time to discover how our child best shares their own thoughts – for us, it is often through Penelopie stories – but it does not matter how, it just matters that we listen.
Listen, not Label. <– Something I will be reminding myself of often.
… to be continued as we progress 😉