My 7 yo son (RC) and husband went for a hike the other day with no real plan, just a guys’ day to get out and enjoy some bonding time. They ended up in the Blue Ridge mountain area and hiked for 9 miles! Yes, NINE MILES! I don’t know about you, but I was astonished at the distance they went and how chill they were afterwards. I congratulated RC over and over for his accomplishment and told him how proud he should be of himself as well.
I should have led with the fact that my very bright, but not always a self-motivating, son has been dealing with self-esteem and confidence issues. He has always shown high intelligence since he was young, and so therefore, stupidly on my part, I never thought I’d ever have to worry about him academically. I never really over his homework with him to see how he was doing because he always came back with 3s (which for Kindergarten and 1st is like an “A”). But this year, which is his 2nd grade year, he started struggling some. He started to fall a little behind on his reading scores and comprehension. Although for him, “falling behind” still landed him in the high average range. However, he started noticing how some of his other classmates didn’t struggle like him with comprehending or reading long passages. They had it a little easier and weren’t having problems with some of the big words like he was. I wasn’t really worried because I’d spoken to his teachers about it and they all said he was doing “fine”; “no worries here,” they said. So, if they weren’t worried, I was going to either.
Until one day, when RC was really moody and snappy with me, that I told my husband he needed to have a “talk” with him because he wasn’t opening up to me and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I’ll stop here to let you know this is the epitome of “a counselor CANNOT counsel her own child!” It just doesn’t work. You are too emotionally invested (hence why counseling is so great because it’s a bi-partisan person – just a shout out to counseling for a second).
My husband is not your typical sit down with someone and let’s have a talk kind of guy, so he and RC went down to our little workout area in the basement and my husband started talking to RC about what was the definition of “hard work” when it came to building muscles and being overall healthy. My hubby pointed out that it’s not just a one and done kind of deal. Even when you’re good at something, if you stop working on it, the muscles and strength you gained starts to fade.
I would love to say that’s when it “clicked” for RC, but it wasn’t. I do, however, think it planted a seed, and seeds are what you need to start to develop deep roots for understanding and comprehending the bigger things in life as they happen.
So back to the hiking story. I was talking to my husband after RC went to bed and was again congratulating him on getting our boy to go so far. I told him I saw a real difference in RC when they came back, and he seemed geared up to do more things to get stronger and healthier. I asked, “Is that all it took? Just a long hike with his father?” My husband turned and said, “Absolutely not. Yes, I was super proud of him at the end at his persistence and how much he had pushed himself today, but don’t get me wrong, we had a major hiccup in the middle that was the real test in proving to RC just how much he lets his mind stop him from going as far as he can.” He went on to explain that there were two creek crossings on their hike (and this is January, people) that they had to take their shoes off and go across barefoot in the water. The first time RC went across he stopped in the middle and said, “I can’t do this! It’s TOO COLD!” and just froze up. My husband had to go in and carry him out on his back to get him across.
CYNTHIA BENNETT-Image caption-Baloo (top) and Henry’s close bond has won them almost half a million followers on Instagram
Now, what RC didn’t know at that time, but my husband did, was there was one more crossing that my husband wouldn’t be able to cross with RC on his back because of the slipperiness of the rocks. Therefore, in preparation, my husband began to talk to RC about how much power how mind has over how far we can actually go. He went on to tell RC that most people could go farther than they think but are only able to accomplish about 40% of what they capable of because they let their negative self-talk talk them out of going beyond their “comfort zone”, of pushing themselves to see what they can really do. He told RC, “If you’re able to recognize this and see that it’s really just fear talking, and not what you’re really able to do, you’ll go farther than you can imagine. And when you do, man, let me tell you – it leaves with you feeling of pride like you’ve never experienced.”
I guess something in that speech really took with RC. When they came to the next crossing, my husband explained to RC he couldn’t carry him because one of them may get hurt and RC was going to have to go across by himself. With a deep breath, and a moment of silence, RC ran across the creek like a lizard across water!
I couldn’t tell you what, exactly, changed in RC in that moment, but what I do know is that he saw himself overcoming an obstacle that before he never thought he could. He found in that moment strength and confidence that he didn’t have before.
It’s not always a singular moment, or a single statement, that helps your child develop self-confidence or self-awareness. It’s about letting them fail; letting them struggle, and then letting them see with self-perseverance and strategies they’ve learned they can overcome. They can rise above, to push through, and to succeed. It’s all about planting the seeds. Giving your child strategies that build him up and strengthen his assurance in himself that when the struggles happen, he can find his own way to reach the light.
*If your struggling to help your child overcome some obstacle in his/her life, don’t think you have to do it alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member or find a counselor in your area today that specializes in the uniqueness of child/adolescent therapy. You are never alone.