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Thursday, January 20, 2011

No One Ever Hurt a Child By Believing He/She was Capable of Great Things

Ever have one of those sessions where you are totally stoked to get to assess a family and provide them with helpful suggestions and positive predictions? I just had one of those, and it was awesome.

One of the COOL things I get to do sometimes is offer positive predictions. It is like I am a fortune teller, but all the fortunes are shadows of a possible bright future:

"You know, other kids I've talked to who have dealt with similar problems end up finding some good strategies for dealing with them by the time they become an  adult."

"You know, other kids I've met like you tend to do really well in performing arts and in creative activities where they can really express themselves."

"Based on ______(insert strengths here), I am pretty confident you guys will be able to beat this problem and you are going to do really well in therapy."

Because I am "THE THERAPIST" my opinion carries more weight than, say, their mom, who may have told them the same thing a hundred times. I tell girls they are smart and beautiful, and the boys that they are strong and capable, and I gasp over the successes of the kids that come to see me, and I love watching their eyes light up as they receive the affirmation they so desperately need to keep going. I like to imagine that my words of encouragement and optimism stay with them and they actually become those positive things the more they identify with them.

In the same way, I could work the opposite magic. I could discourage them or tear them down with labels and stigmas. I could tell their parents there isn't much hope or that their kid is going to be permanently disabled, and because I am "THE THERAPIST" my words might go way further than they should. This is a responsibilty I take very seriously.

It's pretty cool to be able to help shape people's futures in a positive way. I am so glad I get to be the one to hear what they say, accept them despite their faults, and push them toward a bright future. Remember in your own life, that no one ever hurt a child by believing that he or she was capable of great things!!!


  1. I really liked this post, Carolyn! Some parents and teachers never get this idea down. I have sometimes wondered if I was ever really that smart or talented, or if it has more to do with being told I was smart and talented. In any case, I believed it and it became true. I wish I could convince Anita and Tim of this philosophy.

  2. Thanks Sandy! I heard a quote about teaching in one of my teaching classes for adults that I really liked. I am going to botch up now, but it went something like:

    "Always overestimate your student's intelligence and underestimate their knowledge."

    So often we mistake ignorance for incompetence, when its really just a lack of the right information rather than capacity.

    As I am sure you are learning with your niece, being delayed in learning doesn't mean she can't learn, it just takes her longer to gain the knowedge she needs to accurately comprehend information. People are capable of a lot if they don't give up.

    You will be a really good influence for Jennifer if you keep reminding her she can do it if she just keeps trying.