You know, School Counselors are like teachers. We always want to be effective and see growth, but try as we might, it only happens sometimes despite the best teaching strategies and effort. There are so many X-factors. We can control our climate and tone, our attitude, and our own mindset, even if our time and resources may be limited. But, as I tell children, you can never really control another person.
We are dealing with kids who are inherently unpredictable and moody. We are dealing with changes outside the home that we can never fix. And, we are trying with all our might to be a role model for them no matter what’s going on in our personal lives. It’s tough.
Then, there are days when we celebrate seeing the light bulb flash on and the plan being put into action (like the time you used those I-messages we practiced instead of insulting and yelling!) followed by the switch stubbornly and abruptly being switched off the very next day, or even the very next hour! (wait, I thought you knew your 3 calming strategies!?). Right when we think they have it, they can go back to square one. That’s kids. Funny, forgiving, stubborn little creatures.
So, if nothing else. We have a job to do. At school, there will some who easily succeed and fit the school mold. There will be many who actually like school and cruise along, with or without us. (yeah for these kids!). However, that is not true for all no matter how hard we try. Some will struggle academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. It’s tough for some kids who don’t fit the traditional school mold. (And, we really need more alternative school models, but that’s another blog all together!).
So, what do we do? Giving up on them is not an option. Punishing and yelling won’t really fix it either. We must make some part of their experience enjoyable. Or, maybe we take it another step further and make some part of their school experience joyful, rewarding, fun, and especially loving.
We may not always get the results we desire but I know one thing we will never regret spending time doing: Loving them. School may indeed be the only consistency they’ll ever get. The only compliments they’ll ever receive may be at school. The only hugs they’ll feel will be in your room. The only listening ear may be you. And, that is an action that cannot be measured but will leave a lasting mark.
This week, I met with a nine-year old boy who struggles staying on task in class. He’s emotional and sometimes has difficulty productively expressing himself without coming across as ‘needy’. So, his teacher suggested we begin meeting individually. When we met, I told him that we would be meeting once a week for the time being, assuming he’d be thrilled with this extra attention. However, he began negotiating and explaining that we really should meet 2-3 times a week (and I’m only at the school 3 days a week so basically I can never do that with a child unless there’s an emergency).
When I asked him why he wanted to meet, I expected him to tell me he wanted to improve his behavior, talk about friends, check in about school, etc. (so I was hoping for him to tell me his goal of these sessions and understand why he thinks we need to meet so often). He replied with,
I like coming in here because you make me feel loved.
(melt my heart).Sadly, this is not the first child at this school this week to tell me something like this. I had a kindergarten boy randomly come up and hug me during our small group Monday. He looked up at me and said, “you’re nice”. I told him that he’s nice too. He then say, ” I love you.” I used to feel uncomfortable returning these words, feeling disingenuous, until I became a mom myself and realized how important it is to tell children they are loved. There are different kinds of love too, and so I will love any child who needs the love. So, I told him that I love him too. He sadly said, “my mom says she wishes she didn’t have kids and she’ll give us away if we are bad.”
If nothing else, I will make them feel loved. It may not be measured. And, it will not go on their report card. But, it’s important. Even if it’s one tiny part of their time and existence, it does matter and will never be a wasted effort. It may be what matters most.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, I must have love on the mind! (and I know my last blog entry was a similar message) But, it can’t be said enough. We have to make children feel important and loved. We can’t get the academic results and growth we desire if these basic needs aren’t met. We can’t expect them to care about others if they don’t care about themselves. And, they won’t love themselves unless they know what it feels like be loved. If nothing else, we can love them despite their ‘bad choices’. Kids deserve unconditional love.