Gardeners, Seeds and Soil: Nourishing our child's potential


How often do you hear your child say, “I’m not good enough,” or “Why try? I always fail”? Where did she learn to put limits on herself? Why does he listen to the voice of doubt? I’d like you to consider the powerful impact we have on our children recognizing and acting on their abilities.

I have known enough people in my life and read enough inspiring personal accounts that I am convinced we are capable of achieving much more than we think. Our children are born with so much potential to be discovered and nurtured, just like a seed planted, waiting to burst through the soil.

Friedrich Froebel (1782 – 1852) was a great German educational scientist who recognized a child’s limitless abilities. He is the father of the modern Kindergarten. Froebel gave it that name to suggest a powerful image. The word “Kindergarten” is derived from two German words: “Kinter” (Children) and “Garten” (Garden). Thus, a classroom for young children was a child’s garden, a place for them to learn and grow. What a beautiful picture: a parent or teacher as the Gardener; the child as the Plant that is nourished by our hand.

So why is it some children do not thrive? Why do we put limits on ourselves? Is it because we allow shallow expectations to define who we are? Is it because our parents somehow made us feel less than capable? I saw the following YouTube video about a young man who told his parents he wanted to own a restaurant. No big deal, right? That’s a probable aspiration for a career. One small thing: this young man was born with Down Syndrome. Many parents in that situation would say, “That’s a nice idea, but it won’t work.  Let’s try something more reasonable.” Instead, the parents of this young man saw a boy with a dream and made it happen. They saw the potential. They gave him the light, water, soil and nutrients for him to grow into a businessman. His diner bears his name: “Tim’s Place,” where he serves “breakfast, lunch and hugs.” Tim says, “The hugs are the best part.” I agree. His parents knew his strengths and accentuated the positive by putting those words right there on the diner marquee. I want a hug from Tim. It’s an inspiring story:

In my book, Parenting With Spiritual Power, I wrote a chapter on seeing the vison of what our children can become. It is a powerful concept. I suggested that our role as Gardener, “will improve as we cultivate acceptance of others wherever may be and have faith in whom they can become.” I’d like to finish with an except from the book that shares an experience of parents of children with Down Syndrome, like those in the video. It also illustrates how we should not define ourselves or our children by what we can’t do, but what we can. In chapter nine, it reads:

I taught a young lady at Utah Valley University years ago with Down Syndrome. She was a bright and cheerful student, very motivated to perform her best. I learned a little of her background during the semester. Her mother, along with another mother of a son with Down Syndrome, attended a national convention for Down Syndrome many years prior, when their children were young. Most parents were told in those days they would be lucky if their child could be taught to care for themselves. There was little prospect they could do much beyond that. The convention speaker asked the parents to imagine what their child could achieve in their lifetime. He told them to think high, to consider all possibilities. While they each silently thought—wished beyond hope—of what their child could achieve, he said, “Now I want you to double that. ”

My student’s mother shared this story as we toured the facility she and the other mother founded after they returned from that convention. There had been only one early intervention program for special needs children where they lived and the program’s philosophy was: “Love them, but don’t expect much.” Consequently, these two mothers resolved to begin a new center. They focused on the ability rather than the disability. Their facility now treats thousands of children and has helped thousands become more than previously realized. Because of these mothers’ changed vision of what their children could be, their son and daughter have achieved much, much more than they ever would have imagined. The son with Down Syndrome also attended the university, is a temple ordinance worker and has been in over 16 community theater productions. After his latest performance in “Fiddler on the Roof,” with a packed house every night, he came home and exclaimed, “Mom, it’s such a burden to be famous!”

I was at one of this young man’s performances. The stage became a garden with flowers of every kind swaying, growing, and reaching up toward the sun. These performers had been nurtured by caring gardeners, carefully tended and lovingly cherished.

And the hugs from children are the best part.

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