Junk Food for Your Soul

My daughter painted this the summer she finished fourth grade. While she is a very gifted artist, she didn’t paint this on her own–she had way too much help with this piece at a department store art studio in Taiwan where art teachers help children replicate master pieces.

Our social media post this week talked about affording kids the opportunity to fail, and how making everything convenient and easy for our kids is fast (junk) food for their character development. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Why be such a killjoy? You should just let your daughter enjoy the satisfaction of having painted such a beautiful piece of work.” And I do. We hang this piece up in a non-prominent spot in our home. More front and center on our walls are her imperfect artwork–pieces she created entirely on her own, pieces that look like they were painted by a kid.

It doesn’t take more than a stroll through elementary school science fairs around the WORLD to know how many parents feel compelled to enhance their children’s work. Parents want to feel proud of their kids, and want their children to feel proud of themselves. But all the well-intentioned help can set children up for unattainable and unrealistic expectations of themselves or worse assumptions (i.e what they made on their own was not good enough and needed to be replaced) which leads to repeated disappointment and hinders self-esteem.

Back to the original story, my daughter stopped painting at home after that piece. I know her perfectionism, and understand her logic. She doesn’t want to paint when she knows she can’t do it as well as she “did” in fourth grade. That department store art class unintentionally created a fear of failure which stunted her growth as an artist.

Society praises what it can easily see superficially. As parents, you have the power to see inside your child’s soul, so it is even more important that we praise our children’s intangibles–their effort, progress, motivation. “Catch them being good” is a directive that therapists often give parents.

It is human nature to notice what’s wrong rather than right. So make a conscious commitment to notice and acknowledge good behaviors as they occur throughout the day.

While you’re at it, I challenge you to go one step further and “catch yourself being good.” For example, you deserve a pat on the back for wanting to be a better parent and reading my blog 😉 Celebrate your own effort and progress rather than just the end-results, and your children will learn from your example.

Screenshot 2021 01 27 at 12.34.11 PM e1611780496866
My daughter picked up drawing again. This was from a blank piece of paper and ALL by herself!
Caitlyn Wang

Caitlyn Wang

Caitlyn Wang is a global business leader who has, for more than 20 years, led marketing and product development teams in China, Taiwan, and the US to bring products from concept to market for companies like Harman, Acer, and Amazon. At Johns Hopkins University, Caitlyn’s work with gifted and neurodivergent children gave her an intimate look at how these challenges affect families and their wellness, but it’s her first-hand struggles parenting a mod-to-severe autistic child that motivated her to seek a root-cause solution for families like hers. She believes empowering children with the right EQ skill set is an investment in how society can create a generational shift in mindset and behavior. “We are changing the world, one child at a time,” says Caitlyn.


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