A parade of first graders passed through our local general store today. In one door and out the other. Two adults were keeping their flock together. The kids looked a little tired, with no smiles or chatter.
“We’ve picked up 18 pounds of garbage today,” announced the smiling (and perky) lady leading her charges.
“That’s a lot of bending over,” I said, somewhat loudly.
A little boy looked up at me and said . . .nothing. The line continued to wind pass by me. Trudging. They really looked discouraged, tired and in need of some kind of reward.
After they had wound their way past the cash registers, I had the ability to go out in the front area and leave the store. Just as I was about to open the door, opposite the door the kids were exiting through, I heard a child say very clearly, “It was a lot of bending!”
I smiled. It was such a moment of connection and recognition. An old lady (me) had been able to connect with a 6 year-old. How great is that?
Other than those simple words, I don’t believe the children said anything to anyone, nor did the shoppers and cashiers say anything to the children. A “Thank You” for your hard work would have been nice for the kids to hear.
So here’s my point: It’s really helpful for children to work for recognition. Not just the “thank you for working,” but the understanding of the kind of work that seemed so hard. Kids understand and appreciate this. This allows kids to grow older and work harder, knowing that there are some adults in their lives who value the physical work ethic. (Our children of today are no different from the children of yesteryear. All children will work to achieve positive regard, which doesn’t have to come with sweet treats. )
So the next time you have an opportunity to state a fact about some kind of hard work that a child has engaged in, please do so. The child will know that some adult understands, approves and is appreciative. And that lasts a lot longer than a stale, chocolate chip cookie back at the school.
Be gentle with yourself and with our children.