What every child needs to get on the right track.
Last fall, Max Sanders* did one of those things that gets a child’s picture on the front page of the newspaper. The nine-year-old created a calendar featuring drawings he’d done of his favourite birds and, with the help of parents, relatives and friends, got some printed and sold enough copies to raise $1,000 for a community in Zimbabwe.
I have two reactions to stories like this.
One is: “Geez, none of my children ever did anything like that.”
The other is: “Wow! What a great kid.”
There’s a heartfelt, admiring way people say that phrase sometimes with the emphasis on the word great. We all hope somebody says that about our child someday.
Can you raise a kid to be like that?
I doubt that many people build their parenting strategy around extra-ordinary achievements. But lots of us aim for a child who matches one of the following great kid definitions offered to me by some parents.
“A great kid is one you enjoy spending time with and one who enjoys spending time with you.”
“A kid that most people like and like to be with. One who’s confident and kind, compassionate but fun, not show-offy or whiny.”
“One who cares about others, but also himself. A great kid knows right from wrong and is strong enough to make smart decisions even when they are the harder ones.
Sounds good. But whatever your vision of a great kid is, I’d throw in a proviso: the realities of child development. Children go through ages and stages as they grow, and not every one of those moments is pretty. I’ve seen stormy toddlers morph into delightful eight-year-olds, and sullen, monosyllabic teenagers blossom into engaging, capable young people. Raising a great kid is a process rather than an end result. Still, we do want our kids to be great (at least sometimes!) while they’re growing, as well as when they’re grown.