Family Works [August 11, 2019]
Family Works [August 11, 2019]
Speaking on Stage Four of Emotional Development – Industry versus Inferiority
It’s only the second week of first grade and fear and trepidation consumes Andrew.
Friday, only five days away, he will face his first test. A test. A real test. There will be 10 spelling words. Some of the words are huge. Many of the words have four and a few even five letters. “This is impossible.”
When he finally gets home, he’s eager to talk. Unfortunately, his parents are busy. Mom is trying to get supper on the table even though the baby is crying. Dad has got the television cranked up, trying to drown out the wailing baby so he can watch the evening news.
Unsure of what to do, Andrew heads to his room and begins to play. Perhaps later he can get some help with the spelling list. Sadly, the opportunity never happens.
Bedtime arrives and Andrew’s anxiety soars. Tuesday night he does ask for help, but again his parents are just too busy.
Wednesday evening there was no reason to ask because he already knows Wednesdays are TV night for mom and dad.
By Thursday, Andrew knows that it is truly hopeless. He has tried on his own to learn some of the words, but there are so many.
Friday morning arrives and tries his best, but only manages to get two out of the 10 words correct.
Looking at all of those red marks he concludes that the reason he failed is because he is a failure.
“Why try? Chances are I can’t do any better.”
And predictably, this becomes a self-fulling prophecy. Week after week he manages to get only a few words correct. Each time he fails, his failure cements in his mind that he is a failure.
The little girl sitting next to Andrew is Paige. Neither child knows this but their intelligence is exactly equal, but their life experiences, even by 6 years of age, are worlds apart. The Monday before her first spelling test, she, too, came home with equal fear and trepidation. Daunted by this intimidating test only five days away, she also sought out help.
Her mother was trying to fix dinner and her little brother was crying. Dad was watching the evening news, but sensed that his little girl wasn’t her happy self. He turns off the television and asks her if she is OK.
At this point, she can no longer contain herself. The tears flow as she pulls out the words for Friday’s test. Taking the time to comfort his daughter, Dad assures her that although the words are hard, she can learn them.
“After dinner, once your little brother settles down, we will work on learning these words” Mom joins in and Paige finds herself loving the attention. Evening after evening, they work on the words together, sometimes Mom, sometimes Dad, sometimes both.
By Friday, she is still a little fearful, but she feels ready.
On her first spelling test she gets eight right out of 10. Eight! Pride swells and her confidence grows.
“If I can get eight right this week, maybe next week I can get nine or even 10 right.” She feels smart, the kind of smart that will help her succeed.
And, like Andrew has learned with failure, Paige has learned that the more she succeeds, the more likely she will continue to succeed.
It is little wonder that seasoned fourth-grade teachers can already predict who will succeed and who will fail for life.
Children everywhere, like Andrew and Paige, have learned all too well if they are failures or succeeders. Intelligence takes a backseat to how they view themselves. During grade school, children establish either a firm sense of industry (that they can do a job well) or an abiding sense of inferiority, a sense that whatever they undertake it will end badly. The longer they fail, the more likely they will continue to fail. And, conversely, the longer they succeed, the more likely they will continue to succeed.
Industry verses inferiority. Which path will your child take? Your guidance can make the difference.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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