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Celebrate Your Child’s Uniqueness By Mariaemma Willis

celebrate_your_child_willisCelebrate the child you have. Don’t be regretful that you didn’t get a different one. Don’t be discouraged because the one you have would be wonderful, if only…

Celebrate your child’s skills, accomplishments, and uniqueness. If you don’t celebrate them, neither will he.

Infants and toddlers have different temperaments, different skills, and different needs for noise, quiet, warmth, sleep, food, etc. These differences are a child’s marks of distinction. As new parents we eagerly celebrate the defining traits of our children. Jesse has such a good voice; he’ll probably be a singer. Madeline is so creative with her building blocks, I wouldn’t be surprised if she became an architect or carpenter. Look at the way Ralph takes care of other children; he’s going to be a great dad.

Adults believe that these defining attributes show a child’s promise. We think that they are indications of something that is true about the child. They are.

By the age of five or six, however, many schools have our children, regardless of background, temperament, physical differences, or other unique qualities, sitting in the same-sized chairs at the
same-sized desks in same-sized
rows. Furthermore, attention
abruptly turns from celebrating our
 children to criticizing them.

Just
 yesterday, a teacher made this statement about a first grade student, “He just isn’t learning to sit and pay
attention, and if he doesn’t learn it
 this year, he won’t get anywhere.”

When children enter the schoolroom in kindergarten or first grade, their abilities to conform and perform according to preset standards are what they are judged by. Even though teachers have the best intentions to enjoy and foster individual children, many of their methodologies—praising and blaming, grading, withholding and granting privileges based on effort and/or achievement—are designed to get everyone to “toe the same mark.”

Why do we stop celebrating and encouraging uniqueness, differences, preferences, and individual needs? School administrators say that it isn’t practical to individualize the setting, materials, and instruction.

By the time kids finish the first grade most parents have taken on the school’s critical frame of mind; conformity and performance measures are what count. Memorizing facts, taking tests, and receiving grades replace investigating, wondering, discovering, playing, and asking questions.

To keep the vital motivating force for learning alive in your child, celebrate her desire to wonder, play, discover, and question; celebrate his skills, interests, accomplishments, and uniqueness. Young children who are recognized for who they are grow into children who don’t do drugs, don’t turn to violence and crime, and don’t feel the need to join gangs when they are older.”

The above is an excerpt from our book, Discover Your Child’s Learning Style. We strongly believe that one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to celebrate your children for WHO they are, NOT for the quality or quantity of their schoolwork.

Since school will probably be in full swing again when you read this article, we felt it would be a good time for this reminder! So what are some ways of celebrating our children?

Get into the habit of pointing out what is RIGHT about your children. Encourage them to pay attention to their own positive characteristics and actions, to their interests, talents, and accomplishments. Compare these two sets of comments:

When are you going to get it right… Well, if there’s a way to mess it up you’ll find it… You’re so clumsy… I know you’ll lose it… You’ll probably forget like you always do…

Wow, thanks for remembering to pick that up… I noticed you put your ring in a safe place… Thanks for helping your brother… That was tricky but you managed to get it done… I admire your willingness to do a few math problems even though you really dislike math…

If children live with the first set of comments, it’s not a big surprise if they themselves say things like: I’m so clumsy… I’ll lose it for sure… I can’t do it… I never finish things, that’s just the way I am…

Children who live with the second set of comments learn to be confident and to pay attention to what they do right. You are liable to hear them say things like: Well, it’s hard but I can try it… Next time I’m going to do it this way… Maybe I can make a plan so that doesn’t happen again… I know I can do it… I did it!

We encourage you to take some time to think about all the wonderful characteristics about your child that you truly value. You might begin by listing ten or twelve of your child’s skills, accomplishments, and unique qualities. Keep them as non-school related as possible. Ask other members of the family to contribute to the list.

Then share the list with your child. Perhaps have separate family celebrations for each of the people in the family, highlighting the list of attributes compiled by family members.

This is just one of the many ways for becoming your children’s LearningSuccess coaches and bringing out the stars that are shining inside!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MARIAEMMA WILLIS, M.S. is co-author of Discover Your Child’s Learning Style & Midlife Crisis Begins in Kindergarten. She is co-founder of LearningSuccessInstitute.com—providing LearningSuccess training for parents and teachers, and SolimarAcademy.com—offering customized programs for homeschool/independent study.   m@learningsuccesscoach.com

©2015 by Mariaemma Willis/Reflective Educational Perspectives, LLC