Over the last few days, I have received numerous phone calls, emails, and private messages via my Facebook pages (The DragonflyForest, Forest Alliance Coaching, & Decoding Dyslexia OH). The post on Learned Helplessness resonated with so many people. There was a general consensus that the primary source of a student developing learned helplessness is in the school environment and that is the primary environment that needs to be changed. The most frequently asked questions related to how, as a parent, can we help our children survive; build grit, tenacity, & perseverance; and heal the wounds that are already established. This post will provide some insight into what a parent can do at home.
Here are some tips I give parents when helping coach them on raising a child with a learning disability:
Grit is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”
1~Praise children for their effort, not the end product or results. For example, when learning something say things like “Wow, I like how hard you worked on that problem,” “I enjoyed watching you put so much effort into your project,” or “You did a great job sticking to the problem after not being able to solve it.” Your child needs to hear you say… “We all fail and make mistakes what matters most is getting back up and trying again with new lessons learned.”
2~ Discuss how life is about learning all types of lessons, and the goal isn’t to get good grades it is to learn, develop, grow, improve, and change. When your child fails, focus on what lessons were learned from the failure and how to prevent these from happening again. Remind your child about how Thomas Edison didn’t fail thousands of times before he successfully invented the light bulb he learned a thousand ways his inventions didn’t work, but he persevered and finally found had success.
3~ Watch movies that demonstrate tenacity such as: "Rudy," "A Bugs Life," "Finding Nemo," "True Grit," "Karate Kid," "The Pursuit Of Happyness," "Little Giants," "The Rookie," "Remember the Titans"…. Geez just about any movie because they all follow the 'Hero’s Journey.'
4~ When watching these movies (or eye/ear reading books) point out the theme of the 'Hero’s Journey.' Remind your child that they too are on their own 'Hero’s Journey.' Point out how on every journey the hero must experience a variety of trials and tribulations. Although they are not pleasant to experience, these obstacles make the hero stronger and better . Help your child see how his/her own life is on the Hero’s journey path in all different areas. If your child has a character from a movie or book, they admire point out how this character perseveres and “keeps swimming.” (Dory from Finding Nemo is one I admire!). In therapy sessions and when coaching clients, I frequently teach Joseph Campbell’s' Hero’s Journey' and help clients see how it relates to real life.
5~ Be a good role model for your child and point out times you want(ed) to give up but persevered. This shows how you have/had grit and tenacity.
6~ Finally, allow them to express their feelings. Children will be frustrated when they go through their own trials and tribulations so they will want to vent these frustrations. When your child does vent he/she may not do so in a productive way. Your child may throw a tantrum, stomp around, or display a bad attitude. Ignore these behaviors for the most part (don’t allow holes to be punched into walls) because you don’t want to focus on the anger. Instead, you want to focus on how despite feeling frustrated your child is trying. Yes, stomping and banging the table while doing math problems is trying. Focus on how much you appreciate the effort. When your child is in the heat of venting emotions is not the time to discuss more appropriate behaviors. Give your child some space and once your child is calm and more relaxed thank them for the effort to make some progress. Remind your child it is not about a final destination but the journey and how he/she has made some progress on the journey.
These are just a few examples of ways I work with parents on helping their child develop tenacity. Another key to helping your child is to finding something, anything that he/she does well. Every child needs to be actively involved in things they CAN do, so help your child find things he/she is good at doing. Every person is good at something – if you need help in this area please feel free to contact me and I’ll help you figure out what your child may be good at doing.