Thursday, April 19, 2007

Stepping up to the challenge

I’ve been coming across many stories of courageous people that exceed all expectations despite suffering from illnesses, disabilities or debilitating mental problems. All these people are an absolute inspiration and each story I read gives me hope in human nature and at the same time shames me into doing more with my own life.

The downside of this is that the more you are aware of those that exceed and make huge advances despite the barriers that life has thrown in their way, so too the excuses and moans of those less inclined to do anything with their lives appear as a drain, dragging their shadow of negativity across the world. That’s fine if all they have a responsibility to is themselves but I hate to see it when they transmit the same traits to their children.

Children are taking over and parents are being encouraged to hand over control. New disorders and Syndromes are appearing at an alarming rate and the kids are frighteningly aware that they exist. What used to be called ‘lazy’ some people are quick to diagnose as Attention Deficit, Stamp Collectors have Aspergers syndrome and children who refuse to help Mom in the garden are probably suffering from Compulsive Cleanliness Tendencies.

But to many parents this is OK as it relieves them of the worry that they may be the subject of a future discussion with their offspring’s Counsellor or Psychiatrist. The suggestion that junior may actually have a medical condition with a fancy name absolves them of self blame when they spend too much time at work, out having ‘me’ time or simply sat watching TV, and no real quality time assisting their children to develop, playing a game or reading a book together.

I am speaking from experience as I became a step-father around three years ago and took on two children aged 8 and 6 who, it had been suggested, were suffering from a variety of conditions. This had never been diagnosed but the children themselves were fully aware of their supposed 'difficulties' and happy to tell you that they couldn't read, tell the time or tie their own shoes because they were Dyslexic.

I was shocked, and with their best interests at heart immediately insisted that they went to the Doctors for a full diagnosis so I could then contact help-groups and societies who were experts in the fields. My intention was to learn everything I could about the conditions and then also understand the skills necessary to assist the children in the best way I could. My partner had never had any support like this before and had done the best she could raising the children against a background of two previous abusive relationships.

So off the kids went to the Doctor, who then referred them to the hospital at my insistence for further tests as the Doctor “couldn’t be sure”. I went with my partner and the children to all the appointments and even joined in some work to look at the ‘family dynamics’ – which I actually enjoyed as it included us playing board games and drawing a huge picture together on a big piece of paper. The kind of things we were already doing at home as a family.

After many weeks and many visits to ‘specialists’ we were called in to talk about the conclusions. I was happy to hear that the oldest had no problems and that the youngest would be referred to ‘speech therapy’ to improve her speech a little. But none of the earlier suggestions had been correct. The kids had simply latched on to the conversations they had heard about them and had used them as an excuse to get away with trying – what kid wouldn’t, I know I used to try and get out of doing any kind of work at their age!

So now the hard work began – the children had fallen behind drastically with their school-work and they had never been introduced to Learning as being a FUN thing to do. I whisked them off to the book-shop and bought heaps of books – OK I also used this as an excuse to get all the Dr. Seuss books because I loved them so much – I then bought them full sets of funky pens, coloured pencils and felt-tips and lots of paper and coloured card.

The early days were a real struggle because they were adamant that they weren’t going to give up their ‘easy’ lives but unfortunately for them – I don’t give in too easily either. I set about making cardboard clocks with different coloured zones and hands that could be moved around, I downloaded everything ‘educational’ that I could find on the Net and I set time-tables that included work as well as play.

I developed a form of ‘punishment’ which entailed…………MORE work-sheets – the kids soon caught on that all they were doing by refusing to do their Learning was creating much more work for themselves in the future – a good Life Lesson there too. But they never caught on that the work-sheets were the same ones they’d already been given just simply cut and pasted into different orders (that’ll be our secret). I explained to them the meaning of ‘Privileges’ and explained how they could earn them or lose them depending on their behaviour and attitude. TV time was cut down and added to the Privilege list.

So we got into a good routine and the boundaries had been set. After a noisy and troublesome start the progress soon followed and with each accomplishment I showered them with praise and gave them material gifts, always learning related. The children soon learnt to tell the time and tie their own shoes and I often saw them sitting with a book.

Their school grades have gone up by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years and at Parents Evening, a couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to be told that both children had improved by two levels – an outstanding endeavour by both of them. I was so proud of them and their wide smiles meant the world to me, the hard work and frustrations of the last couple of years just melted away.

A love of learning is essential in this life and although I know I’m preaching to the enlightened – to the searchers and sharers of the ‘Community of Blog’ – its always worth reminding ourselves that its not enough to simply drift and hope, its always more worthwhile to face up to reality and make an active attempt to resolve any issues or difficulties. No matter how hard it seems at the time it is ALWAYS worth it in the long run.

BE the change you wish to see in the world.

Take care and strive to learn something new each day,



Titania Starlight said...

Well said. We have become a society of excuses and new diseases. Passing the buck off leading to a very uncertain future of our society.

We need more people like yourself, stepping up to the plate and getting involved.

The drug companies are preying on this and it is a shame. In some countries they do not recognize ADD. As a holistic nutritionist, I would agree with these statements. A lot can be done with cutting out toxins, food additives,sugar,MSG,caffeine, etc. Most of which our children consume in dangerous amounts.

Our children need us and all the time we can spare.

Bravo for your hard work! :o)

Nathalie said...

wow, well done!
I absolutely love learning - but I also was strugling to understand maths and grammer. Every evening my mother sat down with me and she made me do tables and write sentences. It really helped, I can now calculate things without using a calculator - like so many people use nowadays. It may take me a while (my eyes see the numbers in one way and my head turns them around) but I can do it, so I'm really grateful of my mother, and I am sure that your kids are very grateful for what you are doing for them.
Unfortunatly these days kids are more popular when they (pretend) to be dumb, then when they show interest in school and learning.

Damian said...

Thanks for the input - your additions give the original article so much more depth.

Titania - Yep, Generation 'Med' is up and running. I've often said that the best way to make money is to invent the cure for something that doesn't exist.

I thought of marketing drops for 'eye odour' and saw the potential for fleecing thousands of neurotic people - it's a shame I have morals, I could be rich.

Nathalie - excellent point on 'its cool to be dumb' - thats been one of my major struggles with the eldest boy. I can't get across to him that he is the butt of the jokes not gleening respect from his peers as he sees it.

He also has this idea that if he acts dumb now then he won't be expected to try hard for the rest of his school years - and he's only 10!

You can guess my reaction when he threw that gem at me during one of his tantrums. But kids are smarter than you think and far more clued up than many parents. Luckily I can remember what I used to do and I was far more sneaky than my kids - I think! - LOL.

Thanks for the congrats but seeing them develop is enough credit for me. My hope with this article is that I can touch just one parent into spending just 5 minutes quality time with their child - then the time and effort of setting up and running this Blog will all be worthwile.

Thanks - you're my inspiration.


Titania Starlight said...

Just a quick hello and to start your weekend I wanted to announce that I have chosen you to receive the Thinking Blogger Award. Congrats! Please see my post.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

An excellent post that is very uplifting.

klm said...

I don't have kids (yet) so it's quite possible everything I say now I will later discover to be all wrong when faced with my own off-spring...


I love what you've done and how you've gone about it because you've given those kids and their mum the most precious thing ever...

Your time and attention, laced with a solid dose of love and compassion.

Kids are a complicated result of all that they have encountered mixed in with who they were when they were born...

Any so-called child affliction can be dealt with holistically the way ANY injury or illness can... by examining the underlying physical, mental and emotional causes of the affliction and listening to what it has to tell us.

You listening to those kids, and responded in a wonderful way...

Much joy,

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