Kids and confidence

A little confidence can go a long way with children. My kids are no exception, of course. But my middle child manages to surprise me sometimes. He’s the kid with a gift for the mechanical. His brain is geared to figure out how things work.

Last time we visited my mother the kids found her table-top mini pool game and played that for much of our visit. Thrilled that they were so excited about it, she gave it to them to take home. They tend to have their cycles but every month or so the pool game comes out for another few weeks of extensive use.

Walter, my middle child, just needed some brief explanation of the physics involved, and suddenly he blossomed. He beats me at least half the time now. He sees the angles, and can put together the combinations in his head. He still has some difficulty translating what his mind conceives to what his hands do, but it’s only a matter of time. He’s getting pretty good.

But the real kicker was today. His younger brother got a Fisher-Price set for a present. It’s a samurai castle with about four different things that happen when you twist a knob. Except half of the things didn’t happen, because something just wasn’t connecting right within the set. Walter was able to get it to work temporarily today by tuning it upside down for awhile. When he turned it right-side-up it started working correctly.

Unfortunately that only lasted for maybe ten minutes, and then it was broken again. So Walter suggested I could try and fix it. I agreed, but put it off until later, as were about to get ready for church.

After church I had some additional things to do, but Walter decided he didn’t want to wait. While I was gone he began taking the samurai castle apart. By the time I got home he was in the process of putting it back together again. He remembered where everything went, and which screws were used to fasten that piece in place.

When he completed re-assembly it worked, and remained working the rest of the day–and still going. I wasn’t here, so I don’t know what he did, but whatever he did worked. That’s just the kind of mind he has.

But he wouldn’t have dared to try if he hadn’t already had a fair amount of confidence. And now he has even more. This is one kid who probably won’t be afraid to try and figure things out rather than immediately rushing to someone else to fix or explain things. That’s a good thing! I’d be thrilled to see him pick up some of his grandfather’s knack for fixing things.

But I’ll perhaps be even more thrilled to watch how that confidence bleeds over into other areas of his life. I think back to just less than a year ago when we first moved here. He went to school not knowing the area, not knowing the school, not knowing the teachers, and not having any friends. And he really struggled for the first few months.

We did our best to encourage him and help along, but there is only so much a parent can do. Fortunately the successes began to come as a result of his hard work. He figured out what his teacher wanted, and was able to perform to her expectations. He learned how to make friends. He found found a few more things he’s good at. By the end of the school year he turned in the best report card of all three of our kids–and theirs weren’t anything to scoff at, either. They’re all smart kids.

But seeing Walter turn things around and conclude the year on a high really did my heart good. When he’s confident and feels good about himself there are few kids finer. I look forward to helping him with some of his summer projects.

He wants to build a catapult. This could be interesting–and at least a little fun.

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