Challenger School

Seen and Heard


I’m not sure where I first heard the phrase, “Children should be seen and not heard.”

Before you flip away from my blog, please know that I don’t agree with this statement. I have head it said somewhere, sometime. And I’d like to reflect on that here.

I wonder about all of those singers on “American Idol” who have no idea that they’re bad. Maybe some of them do. But most of them seem genuinely surprised when Jennifer Lopez tells them they can’t sing.

I wonder if those individuals were doted on as children.

Not that doting is dangerous.

I bring all of this up because I wonder how much praise is too much, how much attention is too much attention.

This evening, my son was showing my dad (his grandfather) some magic tricks. My dad was trying to watch television—in fact, we all were at one point until Jadden got the notion that we instead needed to be entertained.

My dad obliged for a time and acted sufficiently impressed. He even said to me, “How does he do that?”

But then, I could see my dad trying to sneak peeks at the television. As the magic show droned on and on.

Finally, my dad said that the magic show had to end. So Jadden moved his table over to me and began to perform. I told him that I would watch his magic show later. He sulked into the corner and pouted.

Perhaps I made the wrong decision here. Maybe I should have watched his magic show and worked on developing his confidence. At the same time, I wonder, will he turn out to be one of those singers on “American Idol?”

Perhaps these are totally different issues—the lack of awareness about our abilities and non-abilities and my son’s interest in being the center of attention. I just wonder if and when it is okay to tell him that we aren’t interested in his act…at least not right now. I wonder what this does to his self esteem. As I mentioned earlier, I believe children SHOULD be seen and heard. But they should also develop a sense of when they should be quiet and a little more reserved. At least this is what I think I think.

In elementary schools, teachers spend a great deal of time building young people’s self esteem. This is an important goal, but the goal is a little misguided. Instead, what if we worked specifically on students’ academic abilities and their abilities to be contributing members of society and let their confidence build from there? I don’t believe it’s just a matter of semantics. I don’t believe it’s a matter of which came first, the chicken or the egg. If we build false confidence, kids may or may not walk away from school with the skills we desire them to have. If we work from abilities and skills first, the confidence is sure to follow.

Of course, I am not confident about any of this. I am not a parenting expert. I am someone who is going along day by day, trying to do the best that I can. Worried that I will mess up my child more by omission than intention.

About author

Dr. Jim Martin

Dr. Jim Martin

Jim Martin is a principal in the Salt Lake City School District and foster dad to two boys. He is graduate of Westminster College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. He then went on to get a Masters degree in Teaching and Learning and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy. Jim has taught kindergarten, first, fourth, and fifth grades. This is his tenth year as a public school administrator. In his spare time, Jim loves theatre and has acted in over 30 productions. He is the artistic director of a local theatre company.

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