With the best intentions we have a tendency to accept the limitations (of our children and of course our own). During the past few months I had a series of conversations about the importance of goal setting and attaining with parents and different professionals from the fields of health, care and education. Many of them were full of doubt, worry and frustration thanks to a variety of reasons such us:
- A health professional stated that she didn’t support goal setting to a 2 year-old child, because the measurable goals would put unnecessary pressure on both parents and professionals
- A SMART objective of a physical goal phrased like: “attempt to improve” in an EHCP report
- One of the 1:2:1 assistants welcomed us to a session that a therapist visited the child and without any consideration of progress she just stated that the child is not ready to walk with sticks and there is no point to practice walking with them.
You might be able to guess… This last child was Freya. We requested a pair of sticks for her to start the long journey towards walking with sticks knowing that the learning process will take time. You might remember our post from last July when we were over the moon when she just lifted the stick up all by herself. It didn’t come naturally. It took 3 months of practice just to lift and move a stick forward. 10 months passed. There was not just one single large action that helped her to confidently walk with these little red sticks but a lot of small ones consistently repeated day by day. Her amazing assistant at school made sure that Freya always did what she could do and used her maximum level of independence. She encouraged, challenged and motivated Freya to try and believe in herself that she CAN. Freya had opportunity to walk with that pair of sticks only once a week when we had our sessions. It definitely didn’t go well every single week, but the consistency of showing her, doing with her and motivating her every single week moved the needle forward. With the lot of encouragement from family, friends and school Freya turned her “I can`t” to “I can” followed by the joy of achievement and celebration. We are all happy for her and with her. What is important to understand that most of the time the measure of joy depends on the size of the obstacle that was overcame. We need the good days and the bad days too. More importantly we need goals. Every single child needs goals (and plans followed by actions). These are not for measuring or comparing one’s performance to the achievements of others, but to give them feedback of how great they are. When you keep gently challenging a child, pay attention, offer praise and feedback, you might experience something new. You can see a child who is happy because she realises that she can do much more than she thought she could. This realisation will lead to growth in confidence and self-esteem.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether we are parents, care-givers, teachers or therapists, all what we want to see are happy, healthy and confident children who know that they can conquer the world, no matter what.