Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Not Good Enough

Not Good Enough. That is what I keep hearing from BOTH of my children when it comes to writing, colouring and drawing. My son is 5 and in kindergarten, my daughter is 3 1/2 and in preschool. They are like oil and water when it comes to their personalities and learning styles.

My son is all about the gross motor skills. He's a natural born athlete. From the time he could hold a baseball bat he could hit a ball pitched to him. He can drive a golf ball off a tee better than some adults I know. He has amazing coordination and ability with pretty much every sport he tries, but he hates colouring. And writing. And pretty much anything that requires him to sit down with a pencil in hand and put lead to paper.

My daughter is the opposite. Sports aren't her thing. She's the kid who complains of tired legs two minutes into a walk and has no interest in playing any sports. Give her a colouring book and some crayons however and you'll hardly see her all day. For three years old it's clear that she has some natural born artistic talent. Glad to know I passed SOMETHING on!

The problem? They BOTH think they're not good enough. My son had vision issues and when he was three we learned he was extremely far-sighted. Two years, glasses and an eye surgery later his vision is drastically improved. We blamed the eye problems for his lack of interest in writing or colouring. Now, I'm not so sure. He started kindergarten in September and at the time the only thing he could write was his name. I wasn't too worried as I figured that being in school would get him improving in no time. We signed him up to work with an occupational therapist because they're free and available to kindergarten kids. I have trouble trying to teach him this stuff without him getting frustrated so I figured we would use the resources available to us and go from there.

Today he is not a lot further ahead. I question a lot of things: Have we just not worked with him enough? Did his vision issues put him that far behind? Is it simply where his interests lie? (This is a kid who went to a Titanic exhibit that was in town and can now tell you everything about the Titanic so I know it's not about learning!) Socially he's ahead of the game, has a great attention span and is quite mature for his age so I know it's not a behaviour issue.

Tonight I think I may have put my finger on something. With MUCH arguing and bribing we all sat down as a family to work. My son with his dad ( I figured he'd have more patience than me!) and my daughter with me. My son has some work sheets with simple X's, diamonds and diagonal lines that he has to trace that will help him with pencil grip and control. With my daughter we just worked on her name.

Well it was a disaster. My son drew one line and his first response to his work was, "But it's not perfect! I didn't stay on the line all the way down. It's wobbly!" See picture #1 to see just how NOT wobbly and imperfect his line is. My daughter? I wrote out her name and had her copy it. She drew a perfect "D." And then started crying. "I can't do it! It looks silly! It's not beautiful like yours!" See picture #2 to see just how NOT imperfect her "D" is.

Picture #1 (His are the pencil lines over the black lines)

Picture #2 (The blue is mine, she drew the orange "D." She's THREE)

It got me thinking......did I create this? Now, I'm a self-admitted perfectionist. I'll be the first to admit that I uttered a lot of those same phrases as a child (and even as an adult my husband would tell you!) but I'm pretty sure I never put those expectations on my children. Knowingly. But what if I have unknowingly? Children mimic what they see, right? What if, in my own quest for having everything perfect I've somehow taught my children that they have to be? Even though we are always very encouraging and supportive I guess it's perfectly reasonable that actions speak louder than words.
I will also admit that I RARELY sit down and work on these things with my kids so I KNOW I haven't been putting unrealistic expectations on them!

Does my being an artist come into play here? I actually don't draw or do crafts with them much anymore because they know what I can do so they want me to do it ALL. I tell them that they should try and draw a cat for example and they'll counter with, "I want you to draw it because yours is better!" So now I hand them their craft boxes and I don't join in. I let them just have at it by themselves. I don't personally know any other artists with kids so I have no one to tell me if they've encountered the same thing.

What do you think? Do you have kids that strive to be perfect? Is anyone reading this an artist with similar issues when it comes to their kids? If you've been through this any suggestions? I would LOVE some feedback here!

To show you, here is a video of my daughter on her second "D" drawing attempt. Just so you see what I mean!