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I Love to Watch You Play

Thursday, October 24, 2013

We chose Madeline Levine’s book, Teach Your Children Well, as the all-school read this year because we love her focus on giving children the space to be kids and her counsel to cut back on the multitude of after school classes, teams and lessons that are sucking so much energy out of our students and out of family time. When students talk about weekend days that are jam packed with sports and activities but sleeping and eating are cut short, you know that priorities are skewed. Rebecca Kroll, our Assistant Head of School, recently found this blog post on Huffington Post, the premise of which we definitely embrace as educators at CDS.

Very rarely does one sentence have immediate impact on me.

Very rarely does one sentence change the way I interact with my family.

But this one did. It was not from Henry Thoreau or some renowned child psychologist. It was invaluable feedback from children themselves. And if I've learned anything on my Hands Free journey, it is that children are the true experts when it comes to grasping what really matters in life.

Here are the words that changed it all: "... college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response: 'I love to watch you play.'"

The author is determined to try this approach with her children – first with her daughter after a competitive swim meet:

After the meet, my daughter and I stood in the locker room together, just the two of us. I wrapped a warm, dry towel around her shivering shoulders. And then I looked into her eyes and said, "I love to watch you swim. You glide so gracefully; you amaze me. I just love to watch you swim."

Okay, so it wasn't quite six words, but it was a huge reduction in what I normally would have said. And there was a reaction -- a new reaction to my end of the swim meet "pep talk."

My daughter slowly leaned into me, resting her damp head against my chest for several seconds, and expelled a heavy sigh. And in doing so, I swear I could read her mind:

The pressure's off. She just loves to watch me swim; that is all.

This essays tells us two things: that it’s more important that our children love what they do, be it swimming or word problems or reading, than it is to be successful (the best at it) and that when we let them know that we see them at play, and that we love them for it, they get closer to determining who they are, and who they will become.

You can read the entire blog post here.