While my husband sometimes chides me for being a pessimist, I like to think of myself as more of a realist to his more dreamer-optimistic nature. Those natural inclinations show up not only in our daily lives, but they also come through in our parenting styles. He’s the one who is more likely to say, “That sounds great!” when our teenager says he wants to be a historian who travels all around the world learning about other cultures as a job.
I’m the one who says, “That sounds cool, but what kind of job do you think you would have that would pay for you to do that?” I know, that makes me sound like the dream crusher, doesn’t it? I like to think, however, that I am trying to keep my kids realistic but still with the courage to try to make their dreams a reality. So, instead of just leaving it as a dream crusher, I talked more to my teenager about the kinds of jobs history majors might do as well as the kinds of jobs that might involve travel and exploration.
When we recently were able to watch a trailer and read more about the characters in the new Disney film Planes, which is flying into theaters this summer, I recognized right away that my parenting style is well represented by the character Dottie. Dottie, voiced by Teri Hatcher, is the sensible forklift and friend to the main character Dusty, a crop duster who dreams of taking part in an international race. Dusty, however, has some distinct disadvantages. Not only is he a crop duster, but he’s also scared of heights. While Dottie tries to keep him realistic in his dreams, she always has his back. You can go check out the trailer for Planes too!
That same history loving teenager of mine has his own limitations. Asperger’s Syndrome (a high functioning form of Autism) definitely makes life more challenging from him. While I have probably done some coddling, I’ve also often had to take a tough love approach (just like Dottie!) to force him to try new experiences that he would often like to just skip out on.
While my son had long since given up on the idea of learning to ride a two wheeled bike, I hadn’t given up on the idea for him. I tried to keep realistic about his limitations, but I also researched options that might make it possible for him. Even though he was scared, when I found a program that teaches children with special needs to ride bikes, I took a tough love approach and talked him into reaching for that dream of independent riding.
You better believe that when he finally rode independently on a two wheeled bike, one month before his 14th birthday, we were both thrilled that I had taken that tough love approach to encourage him to go for that dream, even if it seemed out of his reach. After his class that day, he declared that he felt like he “could take on the whole world.” And this Mom that sometimes gets guff for being pessimistic believes that he just might be able to do anything he really puts his mind to.
Our whole family is looking forward to being able to go see Planes this summer. My kids loved the Cars movies, so the trailer excited them right away. As we watched it, they alternated with laughing and oohing and ahhing over the international planes and their designs. My kids are already eagerly awaiting our trip to the theater. And, with our bike riding adventure happening so recently, I know that we’ll have an extra special place in our heart for Dusty the crop duster as he tries to achieve his dreams and overcome the obstacles in his way.
How you encourage your children to try new things and follow their dreams?
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