Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Goldilocks Principle

You know the story. “At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl. ‘This porridge is too hot!’ she exclaimed. So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl. ‘This porridge is too cold,’ she said. So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge. ‘Ahhh, this porridge is just right,’ she said happily and ate it all up.”

There is an important principle for parenting here. Let’s call it, “The Goldilocks Principle.” A child who is in a class or activity that is “too hot” or “too cold,” that just doesn’t fit how God made him or her will struggle and not enjoy it.  The child will become stuck and lose heart.  (Don’t forget, that hot bowl of porridge was just right for someone else—there is a person for every bowl of porridge! In fact in my research—yes, I really did research on Goldilocks and the Three Bears—one version says the first bowl was too spicy and the second too sweet for Goldilocks, maybe a better picture of what happens to children than too hot or cold.)

But, when Goldilocks found the bowl of porridge that was just right for her, she “ate it all up.” This is so much like our children. When they find a class or activity that is “just right” they eat “it all up.” They hardly notice the time, the effort, or the pain involved. They go for it enthusiastically, gobbling up the course or the activity.  They become bravehearts, ready to use and grow their gifts with passion.

Not long ago, I watched a group of girls gather in the dark at 6:15 am for powder puff football practice. Others thought they were crazy and would have hated it. These girls ate it up, they were laughing and running and banging each other like puppies playing with each other! It was a good fit. They had found some porridge that was just right. What to others may have been drudgery, they loved.

This is the Goldilocks Principle: Find the right porridge and a child happily eats it up. It is a major task of parenting and teaching: Help a child match gifts and passions with the right courses and activities, then watch in amazement as he or she flourishes. You could call this simply, “Cooperating with the Creator” since the goal is to look for that unique blend of gifts and interests that God has placed in each child and to connect each child with life’s options that fit the way he or she was created.

Every child should have something he or she loves to do, especially if most classes or activities are hard or don't fit perfectly.  Finding the right porridge somewhere in life keeps him or her encouraged and confident to keep trying with joy and heart.

Next time:  Eight ideas to help figure out the porridge for your child.

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