Seeing Potential

A few years back, I was a small group leader for a group of 7th grade girls.  Every Sunday night, excited and giddy girls would show up to talk, chat, catch up and, if I was lucky, focus on the topic of the night. After snacks and stories from their week, I would try to rein everyone in to the official topic. My girls were always willing to give their opinions and answer questions I asked, but often these answers would lead us on many different, unhelpful tangents.

After weeks of trying various approaches, from gently reminding them of our need to stay focused, to vague threats about taking away their free time and game time, I had a revelation.  I looked at a girl in our group and told her, in front of everyone, that she is a natural leader and that everyone in this group listens to her. I needed her to step up and help keep us on track. In reality, this girl was well-liked, but more soft-spoken than the others, and did not consider herself a leader at all.  But then a transformation occurred.

My words became a reality. Jackie stepped into the situation and began to hold the girls accountable when they wandered off subject.  Her under-developed leadership skills found a place to be used and tested.  The girls, who brushed off reprimands from me about drifting from the topic, listened to their friend and our small group found a whole new level of learning, from me and from each other.

After this event, Jackie’s mother even stopped me at church one week to share how meaningful it was to her daughter that I recognized and pointed out this under-developed leadership trait.  From this conversation, I learned that my willingness to see the possibilities of a skill actually allowed and encouraged that skill to be develop.

Now as a parent, I want to watch for opportunities to see the “seeds” of a character trait in my children.  By encouraging those seeds such as leadership, kindness, determination, willingness to try new things etc, I can give my children the chance to practice skills and traits that are waiting to be developed.  When we point out a positive trait we are beginning to see in our children, we are watering a seed that we can watch bloom into a consistent part of their character.

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