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  1. #11

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    I think that is a great way to teach your kids about their strengths, Ivy.

    I think it is important to give feedback on strengths in a way that kids have control over. For example, you like... or you try hard and enjoy... rather than you are good at... Because none of us are good at anything all the time and the belief we are good at anything is easily shattered.

  2. #12
    Nickle Iron Silicone Charmed Justice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfy View Post
    Also, I think that it is inevitable that kids will be in an environment that pushes them in ways that they are not suited for. How would you say it is best to give kids a strong sense of self?
    By example? Knowing and speaking honestly about your own strengths and weaknesses.
    Pointing out to them the good they have done?
    Building an environment where the strengths you perceive in them can flourish?
    I think it's important to live what you hope to see in your children. Actually, I think it's most important. Modeling.

    When my son does something I like, I try to describe exactly what it was that I felt he did well versus saying that I think he did a "good job". After his t-ball games, I may say something like,"I noticed your eyes following the ball the entire time that it was in the air, and you caught it as soon as it came to you" versus "good catch". I mostly try to express to him my observations of what I perceive to be his strong points instead of making value judgments. He usually makes those for himself anyway.

    If I do make a value judgment like,"that's a great drawing", he may agree or disagree with me. Generally, he will tell me why,"No, I haven't finished the xyz", and will carry on until he completes the task to his own satisfaction(or not). Once he's finished, if he shows me, I usually ask him what he liked best about what he did. Then I'll ask him how he did the things he liked.

    So I guess my method in trying to support a strong self of self in my son is to get him talking and thinking about the things that he likes and does best in his own performances and deeds. I attempt to emphasize through word and action that he not take my word or judgment, or anyone else's really, as an accurate assessment of his abilities or performance. When he comes upon a task or problem that I believe to be beyond his current grasp, I let him try until he doesn't want to anymore, usually withholding comment. Sometimes he surprises me, and he ends up successfully doing something that I was pretty sure he couldn't.
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  3. #13
    Minister of Propagandhi ajblaise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    I hope it doesn't sound awful (and I promise I'm a really nice mom and my kids aren't traumatized at all) but I think an important element is being honest with them about the things they're not as great at as well as what they're great at. I think self-esteem is really, really important. However, I think it doesn't really work if it's not genuine. If your kid trips over her own feet on the way to the bathroom, then I really don't think telling her she's the most graceful ballerina you've ever seen is going to be all that convincing.
    At least then we wouldn't have a million people auditioning for American Idol.

  4. #14
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfy View Post
    I think that is a great way to teach your kids about their strengths, Ivy.

    I think it is important to give feedback on strengths in a way that kids have control over. For example, you like... or you try hard and enjoy... rather than you are good at... Because none of us are good at anything all the time and the belief we are good at anything is easily shattered.
    So, so true! It's also helpful IMO to focus on effort rather than ability. And their inner motivation rather than dangling carrots of praise or reward. Something I say a lot is "I'll bet you're really pleased about that!" Of course I show them that I'm pleased with them, but I grew up being really hooked on praise. I should add that I have a tremendous amount of affection for my parents in large part because one of the only complaints I really have is that they thought too highly of my abilities and said too many sweet things to me.
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  5. #15
    Senior Member proximo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    I hope it doesn't sound awful (and I promise I'm a really nice mom and my kids aren't traumatized at all) but I think an important element is being honest with them about the things they're not as great at as well as what they're great at.
    I agree. To my mother, I'm horribly cruel for telling my eldest kid that she's tone deaf. She *is* tone deaf! But of course, when you're a five year old kid with your head full of images of Disney princesses that sing to birds and make handsome princes fall in love with them by their heavenly voices, to be told you're tone deaf and really stink at singing is like being told you can never be a "proper" girl. Grandma would hear her awful singing and tell her "What lovely singing! Aren't you a talented girl!"

    Argh!!!
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  6. #16

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    I understand the need to be honest and give clear feedback. It is also true that a lot of talent will not reveal itself until skill and knowledge have been acquired in the area of talent.

    So how do we separate lack of skills and knowledge from absence of talent?
    How do we know where to invest the time and resources we have?

    Investment in learning skills and knowledge in an area of interest and clear feedback on progression?

  7. #17
    Senior Member proximo's Avatar
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    It's difficult to say with some things, although with others it's pretty clear cut. Like singing for example - I mean if a kid can't distinguish two notes apart that you play on the piano, 4 keys away from each other, it's a safe bet that no amount of practice is going to turn them into Frank Sinatra :/

    It's also difficult to know whether or when to invest time and resources, because sometimes although the kid has talent in an area, they've no motivation or interest in pursuing it a lot of the time.

    My youngest picks up languages like a sponge, yet she's not interested in learning them on purpose, like I was at her age. If I tried to get her to, she'd see it as a chore and probably not co-operate or retain much. My eldest is very well co-ordinated and picks up skill type sports (not the ones that are about speed and strength, but skill and stamina are her thing). She was interested in gymnastics and showed promise at it, but essentially the thing she wanted out of the classes was to make friends and socialise. When she found she didn't quite fit in and the other kids just played on their DS's and didn't talk to each other during breaks, she lost all her motivation for going to the class and her enthusiasm for the subject.

    I guess it's a case of supporting their enthusiasms as and when they crop up, and not forcing it too much when they lose interest, but always being ready to support it again if that interest returns at any point.

    Although, if my parents had pushed me, I could've been a pretty good musician. I was too lazy and hated all the detail of music theory (still do!), but I could play by ear and learn the physical skill of playing an instrument very easily. Unfortunately, to be a good enough musician to make a career out of it (short of getting a big break as a rock star), you need to be classically trained, and I would never have put myself through that. If my parents had made me, though I'd have resented it sometimes, I'm sure that by now I'd be grateful that they did.
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  8. #18
    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    Strong adult attachments give a child a fundamental sense of security. It allows them to be vulnerable, adaptable and curious without fear of ridicule or loss, which in turn gives them trust and confidence. These two qualities allow them to develop a strong sense of who they are and to develop their potential much earlier than those who do not have those qualities.

    The primary adults in their life taking a strong lead rather than looking to the child for guidance also allows the child to get on with the business of maturing emotionally and developing a strong sense of self. Without these attachments and someone to look to as a compass point, children will be much more easily led (or on the flip side become alpha agressive bullies leading others), and also do not have confidence and skills from which to develop a strong sense of identity. Curiosity, teachability, and confidence all require the ability to be vulnerable and to trust.

    The reason that adult attachments are more effective than primarily peer attachments is that peers are in competition with their friends and are immature themselves, so those relationships are often much more wounding and require the constant frustration (and ensuing agressions) which results in needing perpetual proximity to prevent someone else taking one's place. Therefore they have to harden up and not be as vulnerable. They look to less vulnerable ways of attaching to others (usually peers), primarily by trying to be the same as them. The problem with doing that is that you cannot be part of a group without losing a sense of self, until you have become a viable, separate individual, which most children have not yet become.

    By creating a village of adults who can cheer a child on, mirror a positive image of themselves back to them, teach them new skills, get them comfortable in a variety of situations, walk them through new experiences and be there for them emotionally, and offer a context for peer friendships, a child is going to emerge much more emotionally mature at a younger age and with a better sense of who they are.

    Parents often feel that by the time their children are teenagers they need to let go completely. If things are as they should be, there should be a sense of friendship (with the parent as the leader) throughout the years leading up to becoming a teen. This requires spending time with the child, getting to know them inside out, having lots of discussion (which means time together needs to be ample, as those discussions don't happen all the time), and the parent needs to be willing to listen to a lot of "drivel" before getting to the important things.

    Throughout all the growing up years, the parent is still in charge, but takes into account their child's wishes, needs and points of view as they make those decisions. They are their child's best bet - their provider, their comforter, protecter, their biggest fan. As a child becomes a teenager, this doesn't need to change. If the relationship has been in place as it ought to be, the child still looks to their parent as their compass point, wants to tell them their heart, discusses decisions with them. I think there is a security in knowing where the lines are and yet feeling like it is possible to know why they are drawn there and to feel that the person in charge cares most for your happiness and well-being of anyone in the world and is worthy of that trust.

    I think the other factors for developing a strong sense of self are exposure to many different types of experiences, getting to know a wide variety of people (ethnicities, cultures, cross-generation, related and non-related, professions, skills) and being given the proximity to be able to learn from them and have time with them. Looking for strengths of the child from the time they are little and building on those is tremendously helpful, as well as shoring up areas that look like they may be potential weaknesses. Mirroring back what qualities you see in your child is very affirming and gives them a better picture of who they are. Chances for a lot of discussion allows them to learn about the world the around them and also have a safe sounding board for different opinions and points of view that they would like to try out. All of these contribute towards making a child self-assured and well-prepared for life.

  9. #19
    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    Regarding distinguishing between undeveloped skills and absence of talent -

    I have taught music for many years and I also teach school. I've found that the skills that are most important in life are confidence, character and communication. Really all other subjects or disciplines are only vehicles for learning these three things. With them, children (or adults) will have a chance at success in their relationships, professional life, and whatever endeavors they pursue. Obviously, it makes sense to look for areas where children have some interest or natural ability. However, I've found often that it is the children who initially struggle most that learn the three Cs (character, confidence and communication not individually, but integrated together) much more quickly than a bright or gifted child who comes by the subject's skills more easily. A gifted child can coast for a number of years, never developing the necessary skills to persevere through frustration, the humility needs to either win or lose well, the discipline of regular practice or the work habits required. At some point, they can no longer get by though and often it is at that point that the kids who have had to work harder begin to really stand out positively. When the 3Cs are developed, success at the subject matter is a natural and happy byproduct. However, I don't think it is the main goal at all. The beauty of this is that once the 3Cs are in place, an individual has the main building blocks needed to tackle almost anything they encounter in life.

  10. #20
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    I don't know if my goal has been to raise strong children in particular . . . though I guess raising them to be functional, reasonably emotionally healthy, and ultimately independent are kind of the same thing.

    When my oldest daughter was very young, someone told me to never do for my child what she was able to do for herself and I believe that was some of the best advice I ever got. I've tried to follow it, though I admit I have not done as well with our younger two as I did with our older two.

    I also try to make home and family a safe place. They can have opinions and feelings and theories and are free to express them as long as they do so in such a way as to not infringe upon another family member. When their responsibilities are fulfilled, their free time is their own. I primarily see my role (now that they are older) as environmental manager, troubleshooter and, at times, coach.

    Our family has never had a lot of resources for developing talents and interests, but we do what we can within reason.

    Our oldest daughter loves languages and wants to be a teacher. She is working on an academic honors diploma and taking her third year of German in high school and, if we are approved, we are going to host an exchange student from Asia.

    Our youngest daughter loves art, especially anime, so we got her a tablet for the computer for her birthday last year and we buy her books that teach new drawing techniques.

    Our older son does not have a lot of interests outside of video games at this point, but he has a gaming magazine subscription from his grandmother and we will try to help him if/when he develops other interests.

    Our younger son loves to make stuff. Boxes, paper, duct tape, paper plates -- they are all building materials. It's messy and sometimes I get enough of it and banish the projects to the basement, but most of the time, we tolerate it. He also loves science and wants a microscope for his birthday this year, so we will try to get him a reasonably priced sturdy one.

    With four kids, limited resources, and my not having a whole lot of energy, we can't hothouse our kids and there are opportunities they probably just aren't going to have until college, but we try to give them the foundation they will need to be balanced and capable adults. Hopefully that will be enough for them to build upon.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

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