Have you ever gotten an “aha!” moment from reading a children’s book? (Please tell me I’m not the only person that this has happened to.) The other day I was reading some of the books from the Ordinary People Change the World series to my boys (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already), and I started to notice a pattern. Several of the people featured in those books – Albert Einstein, Jim Henson, Jane Goodall – were a little odd as children. Albert Einstein is definitely the stand-out in the crowd, but a large number of the people featured in these mini-biographies did things that parents today are told to “fix” in their kids. Like spending inordinate amounts of time playing alone, fixating on one interest to the neglect of others, or being socially awkward (usually due to said interest). The cool thing is that the parents of these great people seemed to allow (and in some cases encourage) their children to be different. Instead of looking at their child and thinking that they may need to take them to a child psychologist, they either shrugged their shoulders and let them be, or they got right in there with them and helped them dive deeper into their interests.
Does this sound like what parents do today? Not at all. I know I’m not alone in feeling concerned about my children’s behavior and wondering whether or not it’s normal. For me, this centers mostly around my children being strong-willed and introverted. This means that my kids can be somewhat belligerent, but can also clam up and refuse to play when they are with other kids. A lot of the parenting advice you see today would suggest ways to encourage your child to be more social or compliant, but why? Introverts may seem somewhat aloof, but all that time spent in their head makes them great leadership material. And strong-willed children grow up to be the world changers of the future.
So what’s the difference between parents today and parents of old? Could it be the pressures of social media making us want our kids to be “perfect” so we can proudly show their confident, smart, well-behaved faces to our friends on the internet? Or could it be the result of the self-esteem movement of the late 80s and 90s that many of us were raised in and that has oddly made many of us rather self-conscious? Who knows?
What I do know is that the parents of these great people in history didn’t try to prevent their children from being weird, and it worked out great for everyone. Maybe we should take this advice from them and let our kids be a little different. So what if your child doesn’t like spending much time hanging out with friends? And who cares if your kid has an abnormal admiration for the ocean? Let them be who they are and who knows, maybe something great will happen.