Thinking Outside the Box to Build Self-Esteem

February 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

selfesteemIt is important to help all children to find their strengths.  For some children it is much easier than for others.  Children with ADHD or who are on the autism spectrum have more discouraging feedback in their daily lives than other children.  Some academic subjects are hard for them.  And for some the standard team sports that many children play in grade school are not a good match.

Children with poor spatial skills find sports like soccer and baseball frustrating.  How can you gauge where and when to kick or throw the ball if you don’t judge distance well?  Children with short attention spans are usually bored by baseball as well.  These are the ones who are looking for four leaf clovers in right field.  Children with poor social skills find team sports frustrating as well.   These might be the kids who get overly upset by a teammate who lets in a goal (never mind whether the child talking could stop a goal).

So, is the default to let your child stay home and play Minecraft or some similar electronic activity?  It can be very hard to buck that tendency.

I find parents need to think a little out of the box. This is not news.  If your child fits this profile, you know you’ve been outside the box for some time.  If your child is not skilled in team sports that require eye-hand or eye-foot coordination, what else can she do?  I have known children who have excelled in swimming or track.  These are team sports in which each person competes against herself.  The social benefits of sharing a goal with other kids are still there, but the interpersonal competition and judgment are decreased.

Going a little more out of the mainstream, one could take up archery.  If you don’t have good gross motor skills , you might have what it takes for archery.  This requires the kind of “geeky” focus that is just the thing for some kids on the spectrum.  Another such activity is orienteering.  I just checked the New England Orienteering Club website which says, “Orienteering is a fun, outdoor activity in which you run (or walk) a course in the woods using only a map and compass to guide you.”  Kids of a range of ages can enjoy this.  It has the somewhat “geeky” appeal of using the compass and map to find specific places along with the benefit of getting exercise outdoors.   Other children I’ve known have pursued trapeze.  Imagine what an upper body workout that is!

Then there are non athletic activities. Perhaps your young one is not at all interested in the musical instruments offered in school.  Could she have guitar lessons with a cool young adult?  Perhaps your child has a flair or the dramatic.  Are there children’s theaters in the area?

I could go on and on.  The point is that every child has a skill or interest that can a source of self esteem.  School is such a big part of children’s lives that when it is difficult, it wears kids down.  But when they find an activity in which they can excel, they can really shine.

What creative ways have you found to help your child develop an interest or skill?


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Photo credit:  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Flickr

Being Curious

February 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

catreflectionSome of us like surprises.  Others like to know what’s coming.  Parents learn quickly is that life is full of surprises, some delightful, and some not so much.  Today I’m thinking about those “not so much” surprises. 

Not So Great Surprises

Perhaps you learn at a teacher conference that your sixth grader has not been passing in math homework for the past few weeks.  Maybe you have even seen your child doing the homework.

Or perhaps you hear that your child is clowning around in social studies.

Sometimes parents are surprised even though the behavior is not unusual. We adults just hope things will change.  Perhaps you ask your child to take out the trash.   You hear, “Sure, after I’m done with this.”  Now it is bedtime and the trash is still where it was.  Against your better judgment, you’re surprised.

The Talk

Often a parent’s impulse at these times is to sit the child down for a “good talk.” But grownups often do much of the talking at these times.  “A good talk” turns into a “good lecture.”  You repeat good sensible advice and tell your child what she should do.  At the end you ask for buy in, “So, you’ll do it that way now, right?”  and perhaps your child says, “Yes.”

But have you learned anything about why your child has behaved in this way and what might actually help change the situation?  Likely not.

Curiosity Helps the Relationship and Leads to Problem Solving

Here’s another way to respond.  Be curious.

First of all, you will need to manage your emotions.  If you are very angry about the problem, you child will become defensive and you won’t learn much.  So,  count to ten; take deep breath; wait until you are calm.

Then begin a conversation with your child about the problem.  You might say, “Yesterday when I met with Ms. Taylor, she told me that you haven’t been passing in your homework.   What can you tell me about that?”  You describe the situation in neutral terms without accusation.  If your child gets defensive, say, “I’m not mad.  You’re not in trouble.  I just want to understand.”  Now keep asking and listening and reassuring until you think you really understand what is going on.  Perhaps you know already.  But very likely you will learn something new.

This puts you and your child in a much  better place to do some problem solving.   If you have listened without judgment, your child feels understood and is much more likely to engage in solving the problem.  You can now wonder together how to manage so that she turns in the homework and has her concerns addressed as well.

In other blogs I will talk more about the actual problem solving, but for now, try practicing curiosity.  See what you can learn.


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Photo credit:  Jue Wang on Flickr