Two very different people said almost the same thing slightly differently.
Oscar Wilde said, ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’
Henry Ford said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’
We’re sometimes faced with so many obstacles that success seems almost impossible, or rather should I say that it seems out of reach for our children with additional needs. All the milestones that every other child reaches at a certain age, our children often don’t. When this happens to me, I feel down. I feel uncertain. I wonder what the world will hold for my daughter.
But the one thing I’ve learned from listening to parents interviewed so far on the Journey Skills Podcasts is that milestones are a bit of a false construct. Most children reach them by this age or that age, but so what if ours don’t? It’s getting to the end point that matters.
The problem is, though, sometimes my mindset stops me from seeing this. I sometimes get caught in a ‘it’s never going to happen’ state of mind trap. I think about what isn’t happening, rather than what could and will happen. I get caught up looking at those around me, rather than looking up at the stars.
I say looking at the stars because, although I don’t know Edith personally, I gather from her mother Scarlett on this week’s podcast Believe that she is definitely a girl with a spirit. Maybe hers is natural born. But even if I don’t have Edith’s qualities, what’s to stop me, just as Oscar Wilde did, turning my head and looking up towards those stars?
If I think my daughter can do things for herself, she can. If I start with the small stuff, like making her own breakfast, she can. If I say load the dishwasher, she can. If I ask her to hang out the washing, she can. If I say do all these little things, she can do them all. Of course it will take time and repetition, but the time it takes to learn these routines isn’t important, it’s saying and believing she can do it.
It seems to me sometimes us parents love to torture ourselves by putting a milestone or an age to our child’s progress. ‘They are three years and two months behind what they should be doing.’ ‘Over the last six months they have caught up a month.’ Surely this only reinforces a mindset that they are behind, as though the goal is to somehow catch up. But accepting that they might not do everything within the timeframe as others is much more liberating. If I take this attitude, then I won’t give off those vibes that undermine my daughter’s self esteem. I, or really we, will be heading towards the same milestones but forgetting the rigid timeframe imposed by others.
As Ford says ‘[if] you think you can, you’re right.’ If I believe my daughter is getting there, she is. I have to look at the stars. This requires a positive mind-shift. From my own experience, using positive talk on myself helps. Tell myself that things are getting better, and choosing to look at the evidence of progress rather than selecting the evidence that opposes this. In other words, not choosing to believe my daughter is falling behind, but rather believing that she is making good progress and getting there gradually. Then I will end up thinking she can, and I’ll end up being right. The self-fulfilling mindset.
For example, I can despair that my daughter can’t walk to school on her own yet. Or I can celebrate that we walk to school together, giving us time to talk on the way. I can worry that she still has issues with crossing the road or I can celebrate the fact she crosses the roads 95% of the time ok, it’s just the occasional time that’s a problem. And yes I know it only takes once to get run over, but she is closer to be being able to do this than being unable to do it. 95% doing; 5% not doing.
I truly believe in the benefit of the right mindset. If I exude the attitude of confidence, and constantly tell her she can do these things, my daughter will believe she will be able to do the things she can’t as yet. She will pick up on that attitude from me, and if I do it enough she will one day get the confidence to do things she isn’t quite sure she can. And when she starts to believe, they starts to act it.
So what am I saying? The problem, sometimes, is not believing. Not dreaming. The solution: is thinking and talking positively outside, even if it’s not what I 100% always what I think, because that’s what’s going to reflect to my daughter. And she will take confidence in what I present to her, and hopefully internalise it.
Of course I’m not suggesting I don’t get caught up in milestones – I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t – but I’m trying not to burden my daughter with my baggage. I’m trying really hard to let positivity reign. And lets be honest , I have the easy bit: I only have to look out for her, she is the one who has to do the battles. I know she can sense what I’m thinking so I’m trying to help her by choosing ‘[if] you think you can, you’re right.’ It’s all about mindset. Mine is set. I tell my daughter she can. My daughter can.