2018-04-01 / Family Matters

Positivity: Spread the Word

David Rockower

How was school today?
Anything interesting happen?

Most parents are familiar with this conversation. We want to know what’s happening inside the classroom walls, but the older our children get, the less willing they are to share. I’ve had slightly better results when asking more specific questions like, “What made you laugh in school today?” or

“What was one interesting thing that happened in English class today?” These occasionally lead to stories, but I often receive the conversation-killing response: “School was school, Dad. There’s not much to talk about.” I realize this is at least partially a product of age and their desire for a separation between personal and family life, but it doesn’t lessen my frustration. And to be honest, I’m a lucky parent, because I teach in the same school my children attend. If I don’t know what’s happening in their school lives, I can’t imagine how tough this must be for parents who don’t teach.

As a classroom teacher, I’ve witnessed, again and again, the power of pointing out strengths over a steady dose of correction. Sending an email or calling parents to share a specific, successful experience can do wonders for the child, not to mention the school-home relationship. What I didn’t realize until recently was how that phone call or email might impact the family behind the scenes.

Last week, Maddie’s social studies teacher shared a story with us. He explained that, during a classroom simulation, Maddie held her ground, despite others having a differing viewpoint. He wrote, “You raised a strong individual… She sees the importance of making decisions that benefit as many people as possible.” Being on the parenting side of such a compliment is moving. I asked Maddie about the simulation and she talked about the reason she felt so strongly about going against the majority. I told her how proud I was that she did this. She said, “Really?” and tried to shrug it off as no big deal, but I saw her smiling as she left the room. That wasn’t the end of it.

She returned and went into more detail about the simulation. Why did so many others in the class feel differently? Was there something wrong with her way of thinking? This led to a meaningful conversation about the importance of speaking honestly and not simply going with the majority. I said that many of us may think about sharing a different perspective, but when the conversation heats up, it’s tough to do. Knowing that some people might shake their heads and dismiss your comments is scary. But, I always feel worse when I leave a conversation not having said what was on my mind. I’d rather be laughed at than silent. Maddie nodded and seemed to agree.

This conversation would not have happened if it weren’t for the email we received from her teacher. His email was not only a kind gesture, but it provided specific details about the event, and this allowed us to dive in to Maddie’s thinking and learning — as a family. Though this is a school-specific example, I believe sharing these observations in any setting could be equally powerful.

When we witness someone being kind, strong, independent or thoughtful, we ought to let them know.

And if the situation allows, why not relay the experience to a loved one? Tell the story again. When we share these powerful moments, it can only lead to more good: a bolstering of one’s confidence, a desire to make a positive impact, a meaningful conversation.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia of the day, complaining about our stressors. Though everyone needs to vent, negativity begets negativity; constant complaining only breeds more of the same, while recognizing and sharing specific acts of kindness has the potential to reverberate, sending waves of positivity to all we encounter.  •SCM

Return to top