A few years ago I was visiting a friend who had a 3 year old.
Of course I ended up bonding with the little one and we became best friends.
Kids seem to know how highly I think of them and usually are drawn to me.
Beautiful Fairy Princesses
The three year old was drawing pictures of fairy princesses. Every time she would draw a new picture she would run over to me and show me with such excitement. I would grab the picture with both hands and hold it out admiring it with great interest.
At one point I held one of her pictures up and said
“This is the most beautiful drawing of a fairy princess I have ever seen!”
Her mother suddenly came over to me and said “Come on Vivek be realistic. This is not the best picture of a fairy princess you have ever seen. It’s ok, it is well done for her age, but it is certainly not the best ever.”
Offering a Realistic Assessment – to a THREE Year Old!
She explained to me, in front of her daughter, that it’s important that we be realistic in how we describe things to our children so they don’t get an over inflated sense of their abilities.
This mindset is so deflating for little ones.
Why try and limit the way kids see themselves?
Why not encourage them to believe they can do anything they want to?
How can one be “realistic” about the quality of a drawing?
How could she know that it wasn’t the most beautiful fairy princess that I had ever seen?
How can she know that it wasn’t the most beautiful that her daughter had ever seen?
She can only judge it by her own standards.
I Believed I Could Draw, and Then…
I remember drawing a person when I was 3.
I can actually remember seeing it as being perfectly representational.
I was so proud.
My grandmother put it up on the fridge and it was there for years.
Every time someone saw it they would laugh at how cute the drawing was.
No one could appreciate how beautiful it was.
No one saw it how I saw it.
As I grew I saw that it looked less and less representational.
I quickly stopped believing that I could draw.
If I had been encouraged to keep drawing how I saw things as representational, even though to others it clearly wasn’t, I believe I would have been able to evolve that talent as I grew up and evolved.
The fact that it was viewed as a cute 3 year old drawing and dismissed affected me. I didn’t believe I could do any better. And honestly I never did get any better. Even as an adult that was pretty much the extent of my ability.
I Had To Reclaim a Lost Ability
It wasn’t until 35 years later that I took control of my own programming and decided that I wanted to draw. I actually saw that same drawing (my mom kept it) and it brought back a flood of memories. I can remember how proud of it I was. How happy it made me that I could draw a perfectly accurate picture of a person.
And I can remember how deflated I felt when no one else could see how beautiful it was.
At that point I decided I wanted to break the concept of my “realistic” ability and foster what I knew was my real inner brilliance all along.
After a short period of practice and reclaiming my belief in my brilliance (with absolutely NO evidence to support it) I suddenly accessed an ability to draw that was clearly repressed for many decades.
click on the picture to see more of my drawings!
I see my own personal experience as an example of how the realism approach actually diminished my ability rather than encouraged it.
It certainly didn’t give me an accurate idea of my ability!
Create a Powerful Belief
If I WAS told that the drawing was brilliant (because to me it was) and made to believe it, I could have maintained the ability to draw what I saw as beautiful. This beauty would have evolved as I grew.
As you can see from the album of my drawings, the ability was in there!!
I will say the same exact thing occurred with music and dance as well.
I was not encouraged as a dancer so I shut down thinking I was a great dancer.
Now I am a great dancer. I have had my own dance company where I choreographed all the dances, wrote the music, made the costumes and we performed all over the city. I go dancing every weekend and it’s become one of the most important parts of my life.
Perspective is Everything
These skills were always in me and I was always capable of being talented.
Even though it wasn’t apparent in my level of skill at the time when looked at through an adult perspective!
The main problem with giving an “honest assessment” to children is that it can only be based upon our own perspective/experience/opinions.
Sometimes these are accurate, often time they are not.
Rarely is it ever useful to diminish the self-image of a young person.
We halt so much of their potential when we do this.
Kids get the message of what they’re worth and what they’re capable of from us.
How we see them has a huge impact on how they see themselves. And how they see themselves will affect everything they do, every decision they make and every relationship they are in.
Isn’t it better to think about inspiring and encouraging their perspective rather than imposing ours upon them? Doesn’t it make more sense to help kids believe in their potential rather than criticize their ability in the present moment?
You Have the Power
Every word we speak has so much power with young children.
This is why we must be vigilant with what we say to them.
We must watch every thought and every reaction.