Our OWG social media team asked me to share my ‘strategy’ for helping children feel good about themselves. Honestly, I have been putting this off as I really didn’t know where to begin and I am not quite sure I am an authority on this subject. I didn’t want to come off as a know-it-all or bragger. However, as I sat and pondered this, all that came to mind are my three sons who seem to be doing quite well in their lives and, more importantly, are also very happy, thriving, well-adjusted young men.
Looking back on their younger years, which flew by, I often think about the little games we played in which I could help build their confidence. Mind you, I did not tell them they were wonderful, I let them prove it to themselves. One of their favorites was the “toy math games.” As a working mom, you have to capture time together whenever you can so as I got ready for work, my three year old would be under my feet playing with his basket of toys (Power Rangers, Disney figures, Ninja Turtles, etc.) I would start throwing out math problems such as: “You have 4 power rangers and I buy you 3 more for your birthday. How many would you have altogether? He would scamper under the vanity, line up the toys according to the problem and crawl back out with his final answer of “seven!” My response was (in utter excitement), “Wow, are you kidding me? You know how to do math like that already? Are you sure you are only three years old? This is the kind of math your older brothers are doing in school, so I bet you are going to do great in school. Let’s do another one!”
You cannot believe how many times we played that game. I did the same thing playing reading games with all three of them. Some games also had time limits for them to answer correctly. When they did, I would comment as if to myself, “Wow! You really do great when the pressure is on. You are going to be a great test-taker.” Guess what? My boys all felt confident taking tests and always did well on them. They internalized the belief that they perform well under pressure. (It also worked for them in their sporting endeavors when the pressure was on!)
With three boys, you can imagine how many sporting events we attended. One day, sitting in the stands, was a group of us mothers discussing the upcoming standardized testing. One of the mothers began talking about her daughter and how she was not a good math student. She went into detail about how this child just could not grasp math concepts and predicted that she would probably not do well on the test. I was horrified not only by what she was saying but that her daughter was sitting right next to her! You could just read the defeat and shame on the little girls’ face. I know this mother loved her child, and perhaps she was correct in that math was not her thing, however, this certainly was not going to help her child!
Later in the game I made a point to sit next to the little girl and I began playing our math game using “Barbie Toys” in the problem. When she answered correctly, I would do my little “act” of disbelief that she was so smart to be able to do these problems in her head! As we were finishing up, I casually mentioned, “You are good at math. I bet you are just going to keep doing better and better on your tests!”
Whether she did well on the test or not, I will never know. What I do know is she had a smile on her face and wanted me to keep doing more problems with her for the rest of the game. I know her mom was listening to us and I hope that she saw the difference in her daughter’s countenance.
For those of you who have been involved with The OrganWise Guys, you may notice some of the same techniques embedded in our style of teaching. I really think that is our secret weapon when it comes to the success of the program: Children like feeling good about themselves and every little success builds upon that foundation. Start noticing the little things your child does. You don’t have to go overboard all the time, just notice and mention the little things that you as a parent are proud of in your child. Some examples are:
“I notice that you are doing your homework as soon as you get home without me having to say a word. I’m proud of how responsible you are becoming.”
“Thank you for showing your sister how to play hopscotch. You really are a leader!”
“Choosing the healthy apples option at the restaurant was a great idea. Your OrganWise Guys sure are happy!” (Come on, you knew I had to throw that one in!)
The smile on your child’s face will let you know how you are doing!
By Michelle Lombardo