On a recent night before she started first grade, my daughter Hope asked three questions as I tucked her into bed:
What if I don’t make friends??What if people don’t like me??What if I can’t do the work?
As I hugged my anxious kid and offered assurances, I thought about how closely her questions related to the three types of joy I wish most for her in school:
1. The joy of friendship
School friendships present new and often complex emotional territory for kids. Last year in kindergarten, Hope was hurt when her best buddy shunned her for months. ?She jumped through hoops to reconnect with her friend, to no avail.
So this year we’ve already had a chat about friendships. How they take mutual effort. How some last a lifetime while others may be short-lived. How good friends can have falling outs but come together again. And how friends shouldn’t hurt or bully us. Obvious ideas for an adult, but they were new, and helpful, to Hope.
I also shared some Dr. Seuss’ wisdom on this issue:?“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
2. The joy of individuality
Dr. Seuss also once posed a simple question that I love: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
We see kids internalizing conformity messages from such a young age. At 6, Hope is now asking for school clothes to look “just like Katia because she’s beautiful.” I told her it was OK to admire the way people look or dress, but it was way cooler for Hope to look like Hope, with her own style. She agreed, and this colorful outfit was her proud personal statement!
I know the conformity pressures will escalate as she grows — all the more reason to teach kids early messages about celebrating their individuality — but I’m glad she’s exploring her sense of self now.
3) The joy of learning
In her book Motivated Minds: Raising Children to Love Learning (MacMillan Publishers), psychologist Deborah Stipek contends that kids’ motivation and joy of learning comes less from praise and rewards, and more from helping them feel competent, confident, curious, and supported in their learning efforts.
I like the sound of that, even as I see Hope’s confidence tempered by specific learning challenges she faces. The fact is, many kids require additional resources and tailored support to experience the joy of learning. In our home, Bookboard has been a meaningful resource in that sense, helping our young reader to build confidence and even read her first sentences.
A parting inspirational quote from Seuss, for your kids. May they have a joyous year!
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.?You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”