R. Brooks: The Power of Parenting
Clinicians and educators should insure that treatment and educational plans begin with a list of the child’s strengths and include strategies that can be used to reinforce and display these strengths for others to see and praise. Of what use are a child’s strengths if they are not observed and supported by others?
Laurie, a teenager, had difficulty getting along with her peers, but young children gravitated towards her. Her parents described her as the “pied piper” of the neighborhood. Given this strength, she began to baby-sit. As the responsibilities involved with baby-sitting helped her to develop confidence, she was more willing to examine and change her approach with her peers, which led to greater acceptance. Similarly, 10-year-old Brian, a boy with reading difficulties, had a knack for artwork, especially drawing cartoons. His parents and teachers displayed his cartoons at home and school, an action that boosted his self-esteem and in a concrete way communicated that his reading problems did not define him as a person, that he also possessed strengths.
When children discover their islands of competence, they are more willing to confront those areas that have been problematic for them. Adults must be sensitive to recognizing and bolstering these islands.
7. Helping Children Realize that Mistakes Are Experiences from Which to Learn. There is a significant difference in the way in which resilient children view mistakes compared with nonresilient children. Resilient children tend to perceive mistakes as opportunities for learning. In contrast, children who are not very hopeful often experience mistakes as an indication that they are failures. In response to this pessimistic view, they are likely to flee from challenges, feeling inadequate and often blaming others for their problems. If parents are to raise resilient children, they must help them develop a healthy attitude about mistakes from an early age.
The manner in which children respond to mistakes provides a significant window through which to assess their self-esteem and resilience. For example, in a Little League game two children struck out every time they came to bat. One child approached the coach after the game and said, “Coach, I keep striking out. Can you help me figure out what I’m doing wrong?” This response suggests a child with a resilient mindset, a child who entertains the belief that there are adults who can help him to lessen mistakes (strikeouts).
The second child, who unfortunately was not resilient, reacted to striking out by flinging his bat to the ground and screaming at the umpire, “You are blind, blind, blind! I wouldn’t strike out if you weren’t blind!” Much to the embarrassment of his parents he then ran off the field in tears, continuing to blame the umpire for striking out. Since this child did not believe he could improve, he coped with his sense of hopelessness by casting fault on others.
Parents can assist their children to develop a more constructive attitude about mistakes and setbacks. Two questions that can facilitate this task are to ask parents to consider what their children’s answers would be to the following questions:
“When your parents make a mistake, when something doesn’t go right, what do they do?”
“When you make a mistake, what do your parents say or do to you?”
In terms of the first question, parents serve as significant models for handling mistakes. It is easier for children to learn to deal more effectively with mistakes if they see their parents doing so. However, if they observe their parents blaming others or becoming very angry and frustrated when mistakes occur or offering excuses in order to