When our six-year-old son, Justin, dragged through the door, dropped his backpack, and looked up at me with a discouraged frown, my heart sank.
"How was your day?" I asked, setting some graham crackers and apple juice in front of him. Normally talkative, Justin muttered "Okay," munched his snack, then flopped down in front of the TV.
This wasn't the first time school had been tough for our oldest son. Although he tried his best, comments on progress reports such as "needs to work faster" and "needs improvement in math skills" only added to his—and our—discouragement.
Maybe your child has faced school struggles, too. Perhaps he has a learning disability, or she just doesn't shine at school. Unfortunately, it's easy to get caught up in the negative labels placed on our children: underachiever, learning disabled, poor student. But negative labels create a downward spiral; low expectations lead to less effort on our children's part, which results in less achievement.
Thankfully, the reverse is also true. As pastor and well-known author Norman Vincent Peale once said, "When expectancy turns the key, great things will happen."
Curtis Pride, a pro baseball player with the Montreal Expos, is a good example. Despite a 95 percent hearing loss, Curtis never let his disability deter him from pursuing his dreams. His parents told him that with hard work, he could do anything—and they educated themselves on how to create an environment that would enable him to succeed academically and socially. Through years of speech therapy, Curtis learned oral communication, and his parents mainstreamed him from seventh grade on—against the experts' recommendations. Curtis became a top-notch student and gifted athlete who went on to make it in the professional ranks.1