I love the movie Driving Miss Daisy. It came out in 1989. If you haven’t seen it, you must. If you have seen the movie, you will recall the wonderful story of friendship and love that developed throughout the story. The part that I love so much about the story is the raw honesty, verbal battering, and understanding that developed in the story.
Miss Daisy, played by the amazing Jessica Tandy was a stiff-necked widow and retired school teacher. Morgan Freemon played the role of Hoke, the man hired by Miss Daisy’s son to be her driver. Miss Daisy was a rude and snobbish old lady at the onset of the film. In one scene, Hoke revealed to Miss Daisy that he could not read. Miss Daisy fussed at him, gave him a brief grammar lesson to enable him to find a specific headstone in a cemetery. During the “lesson”, Miss Daisy said, “I taught some of the stupidest children that God ever put on the face of this earth…”.
Although it commanded a chuckle of “amen” from many old school teachers in the theater, it made me do some serious contemplation about kids and their learning. I started to look into their development. I always looked at kids as young, but rarely as unable to comprehend. I’m not talking about toddlers, but young teens…middle and high school ages. When looking at their behavior, there were many times that I pulled out my stupid rubber stamp. I never took the time to consider how they think and their brain development.
In a book entitled The Teen Whisperer by Mike Linderman, the author states, “Many teens, because their brains are still growing aren’t capable of the kind of higher-level reasoning, abstract thought, formulating a vision of the future, and feeling empathy for others the way adults can”. I had heard the suggestion and claims many times throughout the years, but never put 2+2 together. Perhaps I was the one with the incapability. Not of the tasks in his statement, but truly understanding kids and teens.
One thing I hate is excuses. I try not to make them because I can’t stand them when they come to form my students. I had to come to a place where I owned my own lack of understanding. I always viewed those that gave excuses as weak or dismissive of responsibility. I had to learn. The first step in learning is to shut up. That’s right…eyes and ears open…mouth shut. After that, you can question for clarity, not to debate your own convictions. I had to ask myself what it was that I truly wanted to learn and why.
I needed to learn in order to grow as a man, teacher, and dad. Only then could I give my kids and students the type of love that they needed which would open their minds to learning. Remember, where there is hostility, little learning takes place. Where there is misunderstanding relationships don’t grow. Lastly, only through compassion and love will you ever reach a child’s heart and mind. Please note that I never removed discipline from the equation. Discipline and guidance must be present for a child/teens sense of security. It is up to you as the dad however, to balance the other elements for their development.
Does this mean that I would need to embrace excuses? Never. What it means is that by understanding grow and abilities, it allows me (the adult) to make sure that I am communicating and teaching with the proper tools and language. I think giving kids an audience for excuses increases their likelihood of more failures throughout their lives. I think it says that failing is okay. Failing is only okay when you react to it properly, owning it and trying again.
When my middle child went off to college, it was a very proud moment. He had graduated high school and worked very hard to get a college to draft him as a soccer player. Guess what. His college career lasted one semester. He traveled a lot with the soccer team and did not put the time into his school work as he should have. He failed. I told him this as he sat on my couch between semesters. He needed to own it. This was painful. He flushed the chance that he had wanted for so long. “Now what?”, I asked him. “You are down now. How are you going to get up?” His “formulating a vision for the future” was not there. I could not believe it and wanted to dismiss his lack of drive to be stupid. I was the stupid one. He needed me to understand what he could not put into words, have compassion, and guide him. “I” had to learn how to help him.
Dads, you are going to struggle with your kids/teens as long as you sit on your dad throne. Humble yourselves and learn. Then through love, compassion, and guidance, you can grow. Your children can grow. The relationship can grow and you can be the best dad possible.