Raise A Can-Do Kid!
By Jacqueline Bryant
To a child, the world is all new and each new task a mountain to be conquered. Kids are the ultimate "can-doers!" As the parent, you have undoubtedly heard the words, "I do it" many times over. While it is sometimes frustrating (like in the morning when you are already running late), intuitively we know this can-do attitude is positive. So, how can we help our kids maintain that confidence and can-do spirit as they grow and enter the school years?
Be a good role model. Children look to parents to show them how to behave and what is acceptable. Allowing your child room to roam and the opportunity to try new things in a safe environment shows him that you have faith in his ability to succeed. Fight the urge to hover and "save" your child from failure or to do it for him. Instead, encourage him to do his best, then try, try again. Show him that you, too, are not perfect. When you forget something at the store or have trouble with that new dance step you are learning, point it out to your child and let him know your plans to keep working at it.
Encourage your child's efforts, not just her successes. As the saying goes, "Practice makes perfect", and kids need a lot of practice to learn new things. Help your child see that persistence in learning a task is just as important as the final accomplishment. The ball may go through your child's arms many times before she gets the knack of catching it. Praise her efforts and talk with her about what might be needed for her to get the ball to stay in her arms. Make sure she knows that you value her ability to stick with it by saying things like, "Wow, you are trying very hard to learn how to catch!" and "I'm proud of the way you keep trying."
Make sure it is doable. No matter how advanced, kids learn best when tasks are suited to their age and developmental level. Choose tasks that your child can accomplish with some effort on her own. Purchasing slip-on shoes for your toddler rather than shoes with laces helps her learn to put them on herself. However, purchasing shoes with laces for your five-year-old is great as he is ready to start learning to tie. Break tasks down into simple steps. Try saying, "Pick-up the blocks and put them in the blue bin," rather than "Clean up your toys." Or, point out that the letter "P" is made up of a straight line and a circle so it is easier for your child to write.
Know your child. Children are unique and approach situations very differently. Learn your child's individual style and work with it. If your child tends to jump right in, give her the tools and let her go. Talk with her as she learns what else might be needed to reach her goal. If your child tends to be more reserved, show him the task, several times if necessary, and work with him until he feels more comfortable trying it on his own. Be careful you don't take over the task and try not to push your child to do more than he is ready for. This is likely to create frustration for you and your child and may leave him feeling defeated.
You can raise a can-do kid. By taking these simple steps, you will put your child on the path to lifelong persistence and the ultimate can-do attitude!
Jacqueline Bryant, LPC is dedicated to helping raise a community of Can-Do Kids through her work with the Partnership for Children in Charlottesville.