Walt lived a long time ago, but I will never forget him! Ever! He was the most important person in my childhood. As a friend of my parents, whenever Walt came to visit, he would always take the time to sit down for a few minutes to see what was happening in my life.
He always listened and nodded his head up and down while I was talking. Then he would get up and say “Wow. That’s great! You’re the smartest kid I know. If anybody can do that, it will be you! You’re amazing!” I remember those visits like they happened yesterday. Walt’s gift to me was a “can do” attitude and belief in myself!
Power Of A Can Do Attitude
I have tried hard to pass on that gift of a “can do” attitude and a belief in themselves, to the children in my life. The ability to hope, and dream about the possibilities, of who they might “become”. And the belief that they can accomplish those dreams! I don’t believe there is a more important gift we can give children.
As a therapist, I heard many stories about the person (often a grandparent) in my client’s life who gave them a “can do” belief in themselves.. Whenever I heard a client’s story about that “special person” in their lives, I knew the probability of a successful outcome from therapy had just taken a major step upward. More than any other attribute, it was that simple “can do” attitude that gave my clients the courage to dream and create happier, more successful lives for themselves. The courage to believe in themselves!
If you listen to children, it’s easy to pick out those with a “can do” attitude.
They come up almost every other day with statements that sound like this….. “when I grow up I’m going to move to Switzerland and learn to be an extreme downhill skiing expert that jumps out of helicopters and takes action videos so I can start an outdoor movie business”.
The Response of Functional “Can Do” Parents
The supportive parents of a “can-do” child will often respond with a statement that sounds like this…. “Wow! What a great idea! I know how much you enjoy the outdoors. You would be an excellent extreme downhill skier!”
The parents of a “can-do” child know that tomorrow their children will come up with another “when I grow up” plan for their future. What they are creating for their children is emotional attunement. The experience that their parents care about their feelings and dreams; that it’s ok to be vulnerable, it’s ok to dream, it’s safe to be real.
These parents understand that what we believe about our children, both the positive beliefs and the negative beliefs, will become our children’s reality. They understand the simple concept that “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree”.
The Response of Dysfunctional Parents
When parents project their fears or dreams on the child, they too are bending the twig.
Instead of strengthening their child’s self-esteem, these parents are too often critical of their children’s dreams. They might tell their children “No, you don’t want to do that! Extreme downhill skiing is way too dangerous. You could get hurt or worse!” If they are projecting their unfulfilled dreams onto the child, these parents might continue by saying “ I think you should be a tennis player. You could become famous and wealthy. In fact, I’ll sign you up for tennis lessons this week.”.
Supporting a “can do” attitude in children will significantly improve their ability to create a happy and successful life for themselves.