Let’s do a quick exercise. Ready for it?
(It requires you to close your eyes. So read on first or you’ll simply be sitting with your eyes closed in front of your computer, which may be frowned upon depending on where you are.)
When you close your eyes, visualize the first person who told you that you were good at something.
You want this to be the first person who let you know you had talent. A talent that, to this day, you still nourish and treasure.
Keep your eyes closed and take a full five breaths. Visualize that person and also where you were when you were told you were great. And then open your eyes and keep reading.
What — who — did you see? How did you feel?
I know how one alumnae from a school at which I was previously employed would respond to this exercise. Her name was Steffi, and she was a graduate of Oakwood Friends School — a boarding and day school where I was first introduced to Quakerism and Quaker Education.
Steffi told me that at one point in her childhood, she truly believed she was not good at anything.
This young lady had made it into high school believing she was nothing more than mediocre in any domain. And then Steffi met her French teacher.
This teacher was so excited by Steffi’s talent that she called the girl’s home and told her parents about their daughter’s gift. “Hmmm,” they said. “French? Thanks for the lovely call, but we don’t quite buy it.”pexe
Fortunately, Steffi heard her teacher’s message clearly. When I met her, she was serving as Colin Powell’s translator during the Bush administration.
What we say to our children can have a profound impact on the people they become.
You know this from your own childhood. Yet it is something that we often overlook on a day-to-day basis.
So today, think of something that makes your child truly awesome. In fact, write it down. Come up with at least three things that make your child great, and be genuine about it. (Holden Caulfield is not the only adolescent that can spot a phoney adult.)
Next comes the hard part: tell them what makes them great, and tell them often.
Peg Dawson, Ed.D., told us at our First Annual Children with Complex Challenges Conference that children with ADHD or autism receive almost constant criticism, and yet the single most important factor for creating executive functioning growth is praise.
So, she suggests, make complimenting your child a daily, conscious habit. Use a calendar, and check off each day after you compliment your child three times. (Dawson even suggested that there should be a 3:1 praise-to-correction ratio at all times.)
I tried this with my own children. It’s really tough, and it requires work and dedication, but it feels great. And I can already see how my words can make them shine.
How will you incorporate compliments into your family’s daily routine? Let us know in the comments below — or simply share three things that make your child great!