I volunteered recently as a registrar/tabulator at an event designed to help children ages 8 to 10 demonstrate their proficiency in making consumer choices. The kids each had to listen to a scenario for eight minutes (with the help of supplementary material they had been sent in advance), then rank the products based on which one was the best choice given factors including quality and price.
I had registered the kids (teams of four), then as they completed sections of the activity, I added their scores to the scoresheet.
One contestant didn’t mark his answer on the score card that was turned in, even though he had kept note of it on his own documentation, as all the contestants had. That meant an automatic zero for one of four products.
As a side note, I see kids at things like this who I’m pretty sure are on a relatively straightforward trajectory to success. They obey the rules. They are well-spoken. They have listening skills that are developmentally appropriate. They are motivated by the idea of winning a trophy or ribbon, and also by the idea of either leading or contributing to a team.
Back to my “no-answer” contestant. Although I had been instructed by the contest moderator to give him a zero, his group leader had brought him forward and asked to let him record his score (which we did).
What followed was an exchange between him and his group leader that was tough to watch. It would be silly based on five minutes of interacting with a child and watching his interactions with another adult to put him in a box.
However, holding a degree in child development (yes, I’m now an editor so make of that what you will) and having raised two children, one of whom was (understatement) not a “jump through the hoops” kind of youngster, my heart hurt for him.
I don’t want to get into a verbatim replay of the dialogue, but “you’re in trouble” came up and “you shouldn’t have said no.”
Although this little boy’s future is unknown, here are 10 things I wish I could have conveyed to him that day:
You are valued
Your brain may not work the same as other kids, but that doesn’t mean it works in a bad way
Saying “no” is not always the right choice, but there are times in your life when it absolutely will be
Being “in trouble” is about the behavior you chose, not about who you are
I want to know what you thought about the product and which one you thought was best
I’d like to know about your life — what is your favorite thing to do?
I’d like to give you a hug (with consent of course)
I wish you were enjoying yourself
You’re not a loser (in fact, his team did place despite his issues — I’ll spare you the explanation)
You are enough
“You are enough” gets said a lot lately. It makes for a good social media shareable image (and hey! there’s a new one for you at the end of this post!). It’s for a good reason, because so many of us struggle (whether we are children or adults) with appreciating our own strengths rather than beating ourselves up for our shortcomings, the real ones and the ones that are probably not as monumental as we let them become in our minds.
Some of these monumental, imagined shortcomings took root before we turned 11.
I’m linking this post up two places:
Five Minute Friday, which had “unknown” as its prompt this week (and it took me far longer than five minutes to write this, for what it’s worth)
Kat Bouska’s blog, for the prompt, “Write a post in just 10 lines.” I kind of fudged those directions to, but it’s OK, because I know I am enough (wink).