Meet Vincent, the ten-year-old mystery child. No one understands him. His friends think Vincent is stupid. They even tell him so. He puzzles his teachers. Some say he is uncooperative; some say he is inattentive; one says he’s just lazy. But they all believe that Vincent is a problem.
Although they love their son, Vincent’s parents fear that the teachers are right. They feel defeated. They offer him rewards if only he’ll cooperate, even scold and discipline him. Still Vincent struggles and rebels against school work. Their son’s behavior embarrasses them. “Why can’t he be like his sister?” they ask. “She is such an easy child, and so good at her studies.”
Home life is hectic, especially at homework time. Vincent often forgets assignments. Sometimes he sits, staring into space, apparently ignoring his studies. Assignments that should take thirty minutes fill hours. Frequently Vincent throws his pencil down, slams his book closed and shouts, “I’m just stupid!”
Is Vincent retarded, or a slow learner? Not at all. He is a good thinker and comes to very sound conclusions. Is he rebellious? Not usually, but it appears so when his school work ties him in knots. Is his problem spiritual? Not likely, for Vincent has a deep love for God and real compassion for others. How can one boy have so many good qualities and still be so stubborn and uncooperative about his school work?
The Mystery Explained
That’s the mystery of Vincent. Here’s the explanation of it. Vincent has learning differences: special problems that make it hard for him to learn in a normal school room setting. His problems aren’t serious enough to detect easily, and that makes things worse. Vincent’s difficulty isn’t his intellect, but the way he processes information. With the proper help, Vincent will become an outstanding young man. However, if someone doesn’t help him, if he is ignored or misunderstood, Vincent’s true potential will be wasted.
A child like Vincent needs someone to help him conquer his weakness. Helping the weak means we bear part of their load when their load gets too heavy. The problem could be in any area: physical, mental, or emotional. Whatever the cause, this child needs our help. He doesn’t need our condemnation, for that would make his load heavier. Ignoring him or treating him like a misfit does more damage. He needs our help. Some weaknesses will correct themselves in time, but others will always require a helper. Will you be that helper for your child?
There are parents who don’t want to see their child’s weakness, for if they see it then they have to find a way to help. They may not know how to help or where to get help. They may even think their child’s weakness means that they aren’t good parents. And some parents actually see a weakness as something shameful.
When Right is Wrong
I have a Chinese friend who encouraged me to share his story. He hopes that others like him will not suffer as he did, or mistreat their children as his parents mistreated him.
Jimmy was born left-handed. Being left-handed isn’t a weakness, though it does present certain challenges in a right-handed world. However, my friend’s father saw his son’s left-handedness as disgraceful. When he saw the boy use his left hand he would hit him with a stick. (That has happened to more children than you know, especially in parts of Asia.)
It worked. Under threat of punishment my friend began using his right hand. He also started stuttering and struggling with his school work. By forcing him to use his right hand, my friend’s father was creating serious mental and emotional problems, though he didn’t know it at the time.
Through primary school and into secondary school the problems continued. Then one day Jimmy spotted a book about left-handed people in the library. He discovered that by forcing him to use his right hand, his father may have caused his stuttering and thinking problems. Like a volcano, he erupted with anger at his father. Throwing the book down in front of him he shouted, “This is what you have done to me!”
Through hard work and endurance my friend overcame the damage and has become a successful businessman and community leader. He’s even forgiven his father for his lack of understanding and for the undeserved punishment he received. He now uses his left hand without shame. In his case, left was right, and right was definitely wrong.
We cause needless anger and damage when we treat a difference as something shameful, and use the wrong means to try to change it.
Helping Our Children Conquer Their Weaknesses
Learn What Can Change and What Cannot
If we always try to change the unchangeable (like the father of my left-handed friend) we will frustrate and embitter our children. However, it is just as damaging to let our children live with a weakness they could strengthen with the right kind of help.
Recognize Your Wrong Attitudes
Impatience is a common temptation for parents. An impatient parent produces uneasy children. We want instant change, but often it takes a long time to help a child become a conqueror.
Remember the verse from I Thessalonians, chapter five? Paul concluded his counsel to the leaders of the church with this reminder: “. . . be patient with all.” Change takes time. Children are not instant noodles.
Years ago I wrote this phrase in the front of my Bible: “Be patient with others; others have been patient with you.” Remember how patiently God cares for us, encouraging our progress, not damning our imperfections.
Vincent, the young boy in the beginning of this section, is a man today, highly respected, and successful. He is successful, largely, because his mother and father exercised patience and persistence. At times they felt like giving up, but they didn’t, and neither did Vincent.
Encourage Strengths, Strengthen Weaknesses
If you only focus on the weaknesses, you can easily miss your child’s strengths. That young man who struggles with his mathematics might have a very loving and compassionate nature. Don’t kill that strength. Notice it. Encourage it.
See your child’s potential, not just her problems
Life must not become centered on a child’s problems. Look for your child’s natural gifts and talents, and encourage those special abilities. Encourage her to do her best, even if she can’t be the best.
Find the Best Available Help
Vincent’s parents found just the help they needed from a school counselor who understood their son’s behavior, and knew what steps to take. Finding the helper you need may be hard for you, but don’t give up trying. More and more resources are available to parents and their children, but always check the reliability of those resources. You can do that by doing a little research on the internet.
Remember to thank God for your child– problems, weaknesses, and all. Your child is still a gift from God to you, and to a world that needs people just like her who have learned to conquer their difficulties and weaknesses. Don’t give up! Your child could some day help thousands.
As you think about your childhood, do you have any memories of your mother and father helping you conquer a weakness or a difficulty? Did they help you to accept yourself? Or did they make you feel shameful for your weakness and differences? The way they treated you may be affecting the way you treat your own children. It doesn’t have to. You can recognize the wrong patterns and confess them to God. He will help you find the help you need. He will change you, and use you to change your child’s destiny.
“Father God, we come to you as mothers and fathers who often don’t know what to do and how to help our children. Give us your wisdom. Help us to see our sons and daughters through your eyes. Send us the right people to help us find the right wisdom to help them grow and conquer. Thank you for loving us– even with our weaknesses– and for making our lives a showcase for your amazing grace. Amen.”