Maybe it's because we live in the information age or that media has become more sensational than ever. It seems like for a while now kids have been getting labeled with one diagnosis after another with an overemphasis on their negative traits and less emphasis on the hope and possibility that there is something inside that is quite beautiful.
Buckminster Fuller said:
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
Perhaps it's because our minds are geared toward fear, and so anything that resembles ADHD, autism, Asperger's, depression, anxiety or any other number of disorders are quickly attached to the child by friends, family, teachers and even health professionals.
Now, let me be clear. I absolutely believe that labels can be helpful; they provide a common language for us to communicate as well as point us to interventions that have worked for others with similar symptoms. But, like anything, we can get swept away with them leaving us blind to what is outside of the box. Or even if the shoe does fit, we can miss out on the wonders of the children who are correctly diagnosed.
For example, people with autism/Asperger's are often highly trustworthy without any manipulative agenda. They have unique perspectives, little filtering for prejudice and can be highly intelligent.
In his book "Buddha's Brain", Rick Hanson explains that our brains are built with an automatic negativity bias to help keep us safe. When two roads diverge in the wood and one has bear tracks, the brain is going to be geared toward noticing the tracks more, in order that we notice them and not go down that path.
This seems to too often be the case when we view our children as well.
We can almost laugh at ourselves, because we do this same thing with ourselves. We spend much of our time in self judgment; it's as if we're pros at it. So of course, we turn that same rock-hard muscle on our children, rapidly judging and categorizing them as this or that.
Perhaps we should make it a practice for ourselves and for our kids in noticing that initial perception and seeing if we can stop, take a breath, open our eyes and intentionally incline our minds toward what is good about them.
We can make this a daily practice, not in the attempt to put on rose colored glasses and ignore any warning signs that are important to pay attention to, but more in an attempt to begin balancing the mind and modeling that for our kids.
What are some traits that you appreciate in the kids in your life? These can be friends' kids, nieces, nephews, your own -- or just the children of today?
Even just writing it below begins the process of inclining your mind. It's a worthwhile practice, go ahead and let us know.
Adapted from a publication on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy at Psychcentral.com. Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is Co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. You may also find him at www.elishagoldstein.com.
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