Do you remember that kid in your class, long ago, who was the class rascal: constantly joking around and getting all of the attention from the teacher? Or perhaps, this isn’t such a distant memory for some of us; perhaps, we can peer down at our own angel children right now and detail, with the utmost clarity, their most persistent traits and habits that have a knack for testing our patience. But could it be that these very behaviors that drive us insane are actually their greatest strengths in disguise? Here’s how to turn a “problem” into a success!
Whether they’re drawing on your walls with crayons, constantly chattering away or refusing to say a word, we’re hardwired into thinking those pesky little annoyances should be extinguished. So, what else should we be doing, other than correcting them? Could it really make a difference in their success in life if we approach these traits differently?
Regardless of whether you have children of your own or not, you were once this child yourself in some fashion. By the end of this piece, you’re sure to find bits and pieces of your most annoying childhood traits still present in your life—but by now, they’re probably your strengths! And if you aren’t quite sure, just wait.
Why can kids be so… annoying?
For me, and probably many parents across the world who were forced into homeschooling with about as much willingness as a rambunctious toddler going down for a nap, I became astoundingly aware of my child’s annoyi–I mean adorable–traits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’re sitting at the kitchen table, aka our first-grade classroom, going over math. Our lesson seems to be going well, and I’m pretty sure that my child actually is such a joy to have in class like his teachers always tell me. Then enters the pencil.
I hand it over to him and as its sharpened point nears the paper, my mind already moves on to the next math problem. But then, he drops it. All hope is lost. He crashes to the ground in a valiant attempt to save the pencil from whatever fate may befall it. Then the pencil comes to life, soars through the air doing backflips, twists and turns like that of a fighter jet. And just when said fighter jet is about to make its biggest move yet, my dwindling patience remarks, “So help me God, pick up your pencil, sit at this table, and write the answer to the problem!” Tears ensue. Zero math problems completed.
Sound familiar? Like so many adults, my instinct is to see this sort of behavior as an annoyance; something we’ll have to work to stop him from doing. But what if this instinct is wrong? Are these behaviors something that can grow into positive traits?
Well, let’s turn to the expert, Josh Shipp. He’s a self-proclaimed annoyance back in the day and is now a renowned author, speaker, and teacher who travels the globe educating parents, teachers, and social workers about the power of “One Caring Adult.” In his TEDx Talk, he describes how he and others throughout history have turned those persistent annoyances on their head with a totally different mindset.
So what if we supported those annoying traits? Here’s what Josh says:
You can check out more thought-provoking talks at TEDx by heading to their YouTube Channel, where you’ll find thousands of insightful, interesting speakers!
Overlooked unrefined talent.
Can you imagine what the world would look like if Albert Einstein and his father listened to that principal? Thankfully — and that’s a collective “thank you from all of us here in the future” — Einstein had a father who believed in him and nurtured those annoyances and quirks into talent, which led to brilliance, which led to success.
So, what if I took the time right now to nurture the imagination in my son?
What if instead of focusing on the annoying bits, I became more involved in this skill that comes naturally to him: the ability to find joy and entertainment in literally anything.
Honestly, it sort of feels like a win/win for everyone.
I find it so much easier to have patience and use moments like this to teach and nurture if I can see the behavior as unrefined talent. On the flip side, my son can learn to use that joy and imagination appropriately and not go into a tailspin when I interrupt it with frustration.
This world is FULL of objects and things and tools and annoyances that could very well be the next greatest invention, creation or innovation to change our lives. It only takes one person to foster, one person to help refine that talent.
There are countless examples throughout history and in our communities right now that show the amazing power that one believing adult can have on a kid! Perhaps, one of the most profound stories you’ll read today is that of Principal Linda Cliatt-Wayman:
It only takes one caring adult to make a difference in a child’s life and a difference in our future.
Could you be that person?
I think each of us could.
Who were the people that made a difference in your life? Can you think of ways you could invest in a child’s life in that same way? Maybe it could be something as simple as donating to Big Brothers Big Sisters or finding out if they have a need in your area. Or it could be something as big as thinking up the next Skate After School Program! Check out our article about this initiative for some incredible inspiration:
You have the power to help, and who knows what the future can hold if we reframe what bothers us about someone in a new light. We could be one overlooked, unrefined talent away from serious innovation.
For even more inspiring articles of innovative, helpful people in this world working together to change our future, don’t miss these articles:
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” —Mother Teresa
Start every day off on the right foot!