Your Kids Will Be Whatever You Make Them

Dr. Edith Enger’s son was born with athetoid cerebral palsy. A diagnosis like this would be scary whenever one gets it, but getting it decades ago was scarier still. Dr. Enger (then not a doctor) and her immigrant husband, who had both survived the Holocaust, were frustrated and confused and overwhelmed. 

One day, at a visit to the doctor’s office, Edith Enger expressed some of these fears and worries to the specialist. It was there that she got some advice that is worth sharing for every parent, whether their family ever has to face that kind of adversity or not. 

“You son will be whatever you make of him,” the doctor explained. “John’s going to do everything everyone else does, but it’s going to take him longer to get there. You can push him too hard, and that will backfire, but it will also be a mistake not to push him hard enough. You need to push him to the level of his potential.” 

Your kids will be whatever you make them. It’s true of parenting and it’s true of life. Edith Enger is living proof of that (everyone should read her book, The Choice). She survived the death camps. She survived communism. She survived coming to America with nothing. She decided she would make something of those experiences. She refused to accept that her son was forever compromised, believed that he would thrive if she—and he—believed he could.

No one is saying that things won’t be hard. No one is saying that any of this is fair—dyslexia or disabilities, being a refugee or losing your job, being a genius or being short, divorce or having to change schools. What matters is what we make of it. What matters is who we push them (and ourselves) to be. What matters is the kindness and the love and the patience we accompany that pushing with. 

We can’t do everything for them—that would only make them helpless anyway—but we can believe in them and help them believe in themselves. We can help them reach the level of their potential. We can make them be what they are capable of. We have to. That’s our job.

P.S. This was originally sent on February 17, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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