One of my toddler’s favorite shows is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. For the uninitiated, it’s a trippy take on what it would be like if all the puppets from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had children. The kids are preschooler-aged, and they spend the episode singing songs about learning to use the potty and going to the doctor and whatnot. It’s your typical annoying kids’ show, but at least my girls are learning something from it, and I’d rather they watch this one than some of the more brainless programs that are popular right now.
The jingle featured in this morning’s Netflixed episode used the following line: “Keep trying, you’ll get beh-eh-tter!!” This is a sentiment I often agree with, in many scenarios. Kids will usually get better at tasks like brushing their teeth, tying their shoes, hiding quietly in the closet so they can jump out and scream to scare the bejeezus out of you when you enter the room — all the normal skills that we want our children to eventually master to be independent adults with fulfilling lives.
But you know what kid? Sometimes, there will be things in life that you will never, ever get better at. Rest assured that you likely have at least a few, if not many, innate skills and talents that you will spend your life honing, and will serve you well in many arenas of the adult world. But you likely have more than a couple weaknesses as well. And while you may find yourself able to improve your functioning in these areas, it’s possible that you will just never get better at this stuff. For me it was algebra, but for you it may be grammar. Lucky for me, I use algebra exactly zero times a day in my life as a mom, a lawyer, and the other stuff I busy myself with. You, on the other hand, may be haunted by the spectre of “it’s” and “its” confusion for the rest of your sadly possessive form-challenged life. But that’s probably ok, so long as your dream job is not Editor-in-Chief of some major publication.
I think the Baby Boomers did a nice job of raising their Gen-Y kids to have great self-esteem and believe that the world is full of opportunities. But they may have done even better if they had reminded these kids that it makes more sense to seek out the opportunities that are realistic for them, based on their skills and abilities. Yes, it’s great if you can master both the piano and the violin, but if you’re frustrated week after week at one of those, it’s time to drop that particular instrument. And you also don’t need to try yet another instrument to replace it. How about you just focus all of your musical talent in one place, and become an awesome concert pianist, instead of a mediocre player of various and sundry instruments?
So if you love to do something, keep trying, and you might get better. If the skill is basic, like catching a ball, you probably will get better. That is, if you’re not disabled or developmentally challenged in some way, which is a whole other topic of discussion that I could get into here. Imagine a child with a disability who lacks the motor skills to catch a ball, feeling disheartened as he watched Daniel Tiger and his friends practice over and over until they just get beh-eh-tter at this basic skill. He should keep trying to catch a ball, with the support and encouragement of his family and therapists, but by all means, let that kid focus on something else he is really good at.
My point is that kids need to learn that, while they should keep trying, they might never get better at one thing or another, and that’s ok. They are likely to be really good at something, and they should focus on that. It’s ok to keep trying until it’s really just time to quit. And ironically, if they never learn to quit, they may never learn to succeed.
Photo credit: sldownard/Foter/CC BY-NC-SA