“Err on the side of believing they are capable.”
Those words changed my life. I sat in Dr. Charles Fay’s office and told him stories of the extreme challenges presented by the adoption of my son and daughter. They were about six years old at the time. We had adopted them from the foster care system when they were three. My twins were both diagnosed early with ADHD, RAD and learning disabilities. Both had vision and other health issues and my son had hearing and speech problems. They acted out in many ways common to kids who have experienced neglect and disruption.
We talked about lying and hoarding food. We talked about problems they were already having with school and with caregivers. I felt pretty discouraged because I had worked with kids in trouble for years and I always seemed to know what to do. But in this case… I was out of ideas and low on hope.
Then, he said those words: Err on the side of believing they are capable.
He told me to believe they could do things for themselves. Not things that would put them in danger, but common tasks I might be tempted to perform for them. In daily interactions, I could intentionally send valuable ‘you are capable’ messages by simply believing and behaving as if they could do things without me taking over.
We could practice skills and they could improve and become more capable and responsible. This piece of advice my friend gave me that day has served not just me, but my kids and the rest of our family so very well.
As school begins this year, I now have 15-year old high school freshman (those same twins) in my house. Many of my friends with teenagers fight every morning with their kids to drag them out of bed and then nag them through the morning all the way out the door.
I can proudly say that my twins have been consistently getting themselves up and completely ready for school without me waking, reminding or nagging them. This has been the case since they were age seven. That is a miracle – thanks to Love and Logic. As I watch my twins blossom into more responsible, mature, CAPABLE young people, I am more and more grateful for that wonderful wisdom I received nearly 10 years ago!
And, because I believe it with all my heart, I pass it on to you. Parents or teachers of kids with special needs:
Err on the side of believing they are capable. As long as you can safely do so.
Has it always gone smoothly? No way. Have my kids been some of the smallest on teams? Yep. Have they been kids who had to work hard to keep up? You bet. Have I had to see disappointed faces when I had to tell them they weren’t quite ready for something? Of course.
But I would not have it any other way. And I believe I worry about them a lot less than if I had ignored the advice and gone the other way – sending messages that they are victims or are incapable.
I’m thankful every day that I get to see the wonderful results and that I get to share them with you!
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