Monday, February 11, 2013

Let's freeze that sucker off!

My son has a skin tab, but that's the LEAST of his problems. My son can't admit he is wrong, ever, or that he's messed up on a homework assignment, or that he's lost his lunch bag, again, or that he has a WART on his finger. In his world, it's a skin tab. WHAT?

So when we discovered this tiny annoying growth, he got really mad when his siblings identified it as a wart. In fact, he went to school, spoke with his teacher and tried to find an alternative diagnosis. This is when he came up with "skin tab." Now maybe she said skin tag - that's an actual thing - but he was convinced it was "tab" with a B. Really, it's a wart with a W-A-R-T but he just couldn't bring himself to admit that. These were his exact words: "It's not a wart. Warts are gross. Frogs have warts and I don't want people to think I'm like a frog. It's a SKIN TAB!" Red-faced, he was about to lose it, so we just told him calmly that there was nothing wrong about having a wart and that we would take care of it. Off we were to CVS for a "Skin Tab Removal" kit.

When Noah was four, we thought he was really adorable when we found him at 5:00 a.m. the day after Halloween taking a lick off each of the lollipops he acquired the night before...there were 8! What wasn't so cute was how he denied it vehemently, "I wuz just wooking," with sticky sugar smeared across his sweet cheeks. It wasn't like we were going to beat him or take away all of his candy as punishment but he just couldn't come to terms with doing something wrong. He denied it so many times he actually believed it. Little did we know that this would become his struggle.

When Noah is in any sort of trouble, usually of the arguing-with-brother or not-using-shampoo-when-washing-hair variety, he shuts down. If his dad or I use a scolding tone of voice, if we are disappointed in him, watch out, he just loses it. Now don't get me wrong, he doesn't turn into a psycho-child, destroying whatever is within reach, but he turns off his ears and can no longer listen to the wise words swirling around him. He repels criticism and correction of any kind. It's terribly frustrating.

You may be wondering, "What kind of environment does this poor child live in that makes a minor observation of disfavor seem like a branding iron?" and I can appreciate that. (I used to judge too.) You might think that his dad and I can never be pleased, that we ride him constantly or strive to make him feel like a bad kid, but I assure you, that's not the case. In fact, we have two other children who don't hold their breath until they're purple when they get a time out or lose access to electronics. They can handle the consequences whenever they're corrected or disciplined. They're proof, right?

Here's my theory. I blame you! Yes, you heard me, YOU, and you know who you are. You are responsible for my child's inability to take criticism, admit he's wrong, accept responsibility or deal with any level of failure.

Meet Noah...here he is at two:

Here he is at four:

Here he is at six:

Here he is now...

(This is his GREAT friend Ella...Holly's daughter.) Isn't he just the cutest boy EVER? (Despite his current state of "I-can-do-no-wrongness," I love him to pieces! He may even be my favorite. Don't tell my bigs.)

All of his life, he has won the favor of everyone around him. He is a charmer and he is sincerely sweet. He looks at the world with unabridged joy. He is AWESOME!

Over the years, Noah has been made aware of said AWESOMENESS everywhere. In preschool, the teachers and moms all lovingly touched his head of curls telling him how handsome he was. The preschool director would even let him pick from the treasure box just because. He loved the attention and didn't realize the level of "spoiling" going on around him. In Kindergarten and first grade, he was frequently forgiven when he forgot an assignment or only gave half his effort, hurrying through so he could get to the fun stuff. That's normal for most kids, right? Even in sports, he could just show up for the snack and he was a star. If I'm honest, I'm sure we perpetuated the love at home too. We did with all our kids but, alas, different personalities make different little people.

The last two years, though, have been a little hard for our sweet Noah. His teachers actually expect him to do work, and do it well. In Taekwondo, he has to know his form and break a board if he wants to advance belts. At home, he is required to pick up all the (flippin') legos before he does anything else. And when he doesn't do what's expected of him, well, the reaction he gets is anything but favorable. Noah doesn't like that.

"Wait a minute," he thinks with a dumbfounded look, "You mean, if I don't try my hardest, do my best work, and put effort into the things I am responsible for...you mean, I'm going to disappoint someone? Unacceptable!" (Well, I can't claim to know his inner dialogue but I think it goes something like that.)

This is what we're working on. In fact, one of Noah's resolutions for 2013 is to admit when he has done something wrong, either intentionally (= laziness or lack of respect) or accidentally (= not thinking or carelessness), and then deciding to do a better job next time. Most importantly, we're trying to help him LET IT GO. Our mantra: "You are not a bad kid, you just made a bad choice and you can fix it but you have to admit it first." (It's like he's in a 10-step program..."Lord, grant him the wisdom to know he's occasionally wrong.") He's a work in progress. Aren't we all?

So here is my point. Children need to constantly hear that they are wonderful and they are works in progress. Parents need to commit to growing great human beings, and that includes the hard work of holding high expectations and dolling out discipline, when appropriate. If we shield our children from the stinging truth of criticism in an effort to preserve their little self esteems, they will never become practiced in failing and trying harder next time. If we constantly sing their praises and ignore their opportunities for improvement, they will never experience the great pride in setting goals of betterment, aiming for, and sometimes even achieving those goals. If we tell our kids they're perfect in every way, they won't learn how to hear that they've done something less than perfectly and they may not recognize the lessons that teach them their best effort is all that's expected.

So we have work to do, don't we? First on the agenda: a doctor's appointment where Dr. T. will inform my child that he does indeed have a wart. And then we'll freeze that sucker off.

(By the way, if you see Noah, please don't mention his skin tab. He's a little sensitive about it. Thanks!)

{J}

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