IMG_2184Do you have a friend who helps you be a better you? I do. She and I have been friends since she was born (a mere 9 months after me). We finish each other’s sentences, cry over each other’s sorrows and joys, and enjoy dancing at odd and unexpected times. We aren’t afraid to be our truly authentic selves with one another.

We trust each other. We love each other.

She sees me for the best person that I am, trusting in the goodness of my motives, even if the outcome of my behavior leaves room for improvement.

I often wonder what our experiences with young children would be like if

we were able to infuse them with some of the same qualities I find in my closest friendships?

As I read books, blogs, and journals about young children, I notice some common themes. Largely, writers are helping those of us who work with young children to solve problems. What can be done for defiant children? Angry children? What about rivalry? Children who aren’t connecting? Children who won’t listen? Children who fail to meet cognitive or social standards?

There is a very important need for these messages. I need them. They give us the tools to manage challenges more reflectively rather than reactively. But whatever gets our attention grows, and the more we focus on all the bad things our children do, the more we find their faults, and the more we nurture their inabilities rather than their abilities.

IMG_2054As educators and parents, when all we read is trouble, we find trouble. Over and over, we are reminded of just how far our children have to go, how many different ways they can be better. Aside from damaging to our own relationship with children, these messages consistently highlight our own lack (because if we really could do our job better, our kids would be better, right?) and nothing is more disempowering than consistently confirming our deficits.

How about some balance? Along with seeking help for challenges that push us beyond our ability, let’s begin a conversation about the truly amazing and incredible generation we are raising.

In looking for greatness in our children, we are free to find it, and that freedom will help us to be more confident and mindful parents, which will – in turn – help our children to be great! What a wonderful cycle to join!

What if we truly looked for the best in our children? What if we consistently attributed the best possible motivations when our children act strongly? How much would our reality change if we stopped measuring our own caregiving successes by our children’s behavior from one moment to the next?

What if we stood up loudly and embraced our children for who they are now, not who they will become after they learn a few more things, or learn to control their anger better, or sleep through the night.

What if we became their strongest allies, the people who – like my best friend Erin – help them to be their best selves?

What if we didn’t sugar-coat their difficult behaviors with glossy words and raised eyebrows?

What if we genuinely believed that our children are destined for fullness – lives overflowing with rich relationships and experiences?

What if we didn’t wait to charge, full-speed ahead, into their dynamic creativity, their passionate fury, their deep thoughtfulness, or their spectacular sense of wonder?

IMG_2025Let’s decide to greet every child every morning with a smile on eye-level.

Let’s decide to give our children space to be grouchy or silly or foolish.

Let’s help our children know they are loved, that they have adults who believe in their abilities.

Let’s develop a deep and meaningful goodnight ritual that sends our children off with the confidence that they are loved.

Let’s surround ourselves with friends who remind us of the important work we do, affirming our strengths and calling out our own goodness.

Our children live into who we believe them to be. Let’s believe in their unwavering greatness.

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How are your children incredible? Share about your great ones in the comments below…