One of the high school home-ec classes my kids took was called International Foods. It's pretty much just what it sounds like. And it's lots of fun. So fun, in fact, that the first semester final is comprised of one task...to construct a gingerbread house complete with cut-out doors and windows and whatever edible decorations the student wishes to use. Sounds like tons of fun, right? That's not what my youngest daughter, Emma would say...
Emma is articulate, knows every muscle and bone in the body and writes beautiful poetry. She's a wonderful military wife and soon-to-be momma. But she is not a gingerbread house maker. Even the teacher (who has known Emma since the day she was born) had to admit it just wasn't her 'thing'.
Emma didn't even want to bring the thing home. But school policy (I think it was at the janitors' insistence) stated students could not dispose of them at school. So when I picked her up at school the day she was to bring it home, Emma walked out of the school carrying a trash bag holding her gingerbread creation.
My four year-old granddaughter, Mackenzie, and I both asked to see it. "No", Emma said. It's really bad. REALLY bad. "It's going in the trash dumpster as soon as we get home", Emma insisted.
Mackenzie didn't understand the problem, so persisted in wanting to see what was in the bag until Aunt Emma finally relented. When we got home we all headed for the trash dumpster to view what Emma considered to be a train wreck of a project. When she lifted the bag off the house, all I could say was, "Emma, you're right. That's bad. REALLY bad. Just toss it." And then we both started laughing so hard we got tears in our eyes.
Now before you pronounce me the world's worst mom, you need to hear me out...
If I would have proclaimed the house to be a work of art, I would have been lying and she would have known it. I would have been giving her a false sense of self-esteem.
If I would have told Emma she deserved a better grade than what she got, I would have been lying and she would have known it. I would have been sending her the message that she was being treated unfairly when she wasn't; giving her a false sense of accomplishment.
Parents, we aren't doing our kids any favors when we tell them they are good at something they clearly aren't. And let's face it...no one is good at everything. So instead of lying to your kids and encouraging them to go after something that makes them feel badly about themselves and doesn't give them a sense of satisfaction, help them find those things they DO excel and shine in and then encourage them with everything you've got.
Don't be afraid to tell them their gingerbread house is ugly...as long as you show them each and every day how beautiful you know they are on the inside and help them to know the same.