As my regular readers know, my twin daughters have dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning difference, not a learning disability. My wife and I have stressed this to our kids from the very beginning. They learn differently. Period!
Something I have learned over the years is that unless you have experienced it personally, most people don’t understand dyslexia, yet will use labels to explain things they don’t understand. For example, most educators call this “special education” or “learning disabled”. My heart goes out to anyone who struggles in life, but I have seen firsthand the effect of labeling a child something she is not – it can hurt. Labels don’t make it better, in fact, in many cases they make it harder.
I have a saying for situations like this: suck it up. My family hates that one. As a matter of fact, my wife wants to smack me when I say it. I may take it too far once in a while, like the time my daughter came in from the trampoline and said her arm hurt. I looked at it, grabbed an ice pack and said, “You’ll be fine. Suck it up!” It turned out the arm was fractured. (Oh boy, I’m still paying for that one. Sorry honey!) But I have always felt this is an important lesson to teach my kids, even if there is a softer way to do it.
My wife and I tell our girls dyslexia is not an excuse, it is a reality. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Life is tough no matter who you are. As I read more and more about people who have struggled with dyslexia their entire lives I realize that so many of them turned this struggle into an opportunity. They used the struggle to build grit and resilience. They all say they are better off for the struggle. I can understand that – it resonated with me. Even in my own life, my best learning has been through the toughest struggles I have had to overcome.
Talk is Cheap
Those who know me know I love to talk. I love to share. I love to help. Especially when it comes to parenting my children. Recently, I read an Inc. article that shares the findings of a MIT study about the powerful effect of acknowledging your own struggles to your children. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Simply telling my kids the struggle will make them stronger isn’t going to cut it. They may hear my words but are they listening? Do they really understand at this young age what that means? However, the real impact comes from seeing my words in action, in a way they can relate to. The study demonstrated that impact doesn’t happen through talking, motivating and advising, but rather by showing them through your own life experiences. Show them how you are struggling with your goals and how you progressed. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in front of your kids. Your resilience will have a lasting impression on them. Lead by example and model what you want them to learn. The article is a fascinating read and the concepts are powerful whether you are a parent or not.
It made me think about the decisions I make when it comes to helping my kids, but truthfully it made me think beyond that. If it helps kids become more resilient, why couldn’t it help adults too? How can we adapt this type of openness and sharing in the workplace? As leaders, we all deal with struggles we must overcome. Do we turn them into opportunities? Do we talk about them with our team? How are you modeling your struggles as a leader? I would love to get a conversation going – please share your thoughts by commenting below.