Lots of times when we talk about Exceptional Children, or children whose brains work differently than the rest of the population, the next thing we tend to hear is how to fix them. Parents will hear about lots of ways to curb bad behavior, different challenges, defiance and learning disabilities. This is all good and true that our children need to be helped and learn to manage these behaviors so that it doesn’t impede the rest of their life and potential, yet sometimes we as their parents are the very ones who overlook their strengths without realizing it.
After having attended and helped facilitate at a parent support group last evening, it reminded me how often as parents we forget to look for the wins our child accomplishes and tend to focus only on the losses. This is easy as at school we will tend to hear from the teacher only if there is a problem. We as parents will also comment more when they misbehave at home or in social situations than when they are listening. It’s important that we cut ourselves some slack if we do this, however, as we are only human. However, it’s important that for our child’s sake we make more of an effort to see their strengths instead of their weaknesses. This is how we will build them up and help them overcome their fears and grow into the person they are meant to be.
How can we find their strengths as parents? Well, again as the person who knows them the best we need to trust our parenting gut when observing them. This means being a parent detective and watching for things like their interests and encouraging those to flourish. And it is important to encourage what THEY love and not what WE think they should love. But who else can we find their strengths? Here are 5 Easy Ways:
- Pay attention to so-called obsessions: Yes, society labels these obsessions, but in reality what they are is your child’s passion and interest. If you can turn that interest into several career possibilities, you’ve got lots of potential. My little guy LOVES directions and navigating. He loves music and dance. So right there we’ve got tour guide, map designer, and musician/composer in the mix. There could also be a dancing career or a career as a bus driver/cab driver.
- Spend quality time with your child NOT quantity: This is so important. When as a parent you are either playing with them in the park, taking a walk, watching a movie together, you are bonding and showing them you are there for them whenever they need to talk. While they will learn that you are there for them, you will start seeing how they handle themselves in different situations and be able to help them build on what they know. Most importantly, just enjoy being with them.
- Get therapy or self-care time for you to build yourself up: This maybe should have been number 1. I know that when I am not doing well, neither is my son. When a Mom is in the right frame of mind, calm, organized and feeling happy and good in her bones, she can see the good and beauty in her son. It is easy to see that in them when you first see it in you.
- Watch how they interact socially: Watching how they interact with peers, family, and strangers without judgment, will help you see as a parent where they need your help the most and where they are the strongest. Make sure to praise what they are doing right.
- Expose them to new situations: This is a tough one if you have a nervous, shy or even an unpredictable child who will do just about anything. Still, they will not be able to show you what they are capable of, unless you put them in a situation with a bit of challenge. Taking them to a new playground, store, event, or signing them up for a new activity will showcase what they handle well. If things are hard, you teach them how to handle it and praise their flexibility.
Exceptional Parents, do you model your own strengths for your Exceptional Child? Often times, if a child sees their parent doing things they love and being positive, they will internalize a more positive self-image. Again, if you are positive and see the good in them, they will learn to see the good in you and in others. All this will mean a happier life ahead for all. Until next time.
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