As a society, we are taught to be very critical of ourselves. We are constantly looking for ways that we can improve, and this can be a very good thing. It is important for us and the children we teach and raise to continue to look for areas to grow in daily living. ---
However, sometimes we lose track of what we are doing well in life. I often see this in the clinic with my patients. I ask them, “What are you good at?” and often receives responses such as, “I don’t know” or “Well, I guess I am maybe okay at this.”
While being aware of your faults is very important, being aware of your strengths is even more important. We learn more by being positively reinforced in our daily lives.
Feeling successful is motivating for all people.
We crave that feeling of success, and being able to identify moments of triumph in your life is key.
Here are some ways you can help your children to identify what they are doing well in their lives even if they feel as though they are doing everything wrong.
1. Reinforcing all positive behaviors and skills with very specific praise.
This can be related to anything. Even if your child worked really hard on something only to find they failed, comment on how proud you are that they made an effort. This reinforces trying even if the result did not turn out how they wanted.
If your child can only sit at the table for one minute, praise them for that whole 60 seconds to reinforce it. Comment on why it is an important skill to have. This will help increase your child’s awareness of the benefits of doing something good.
2. Asking your child “What went well?” at the end of the day.
This is a simple task that can be completed with all ages. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” Be more specific and challenge your child to identify what they are doing well.
This can be especially helpful for children who are struggling because it helps them to see that they are succeeding in some ways. I like to make this question specific to goal areas. For example, if a child is working on social skills, “What did you do well with socially at school today?” to which I often receive the response, “Nothing. Social stuff is hard for me.”
However, through endless prompting and help, I find that these children are doing amazing things socially. They just might need our help to realize it. Helping our children to identify those moments of success will make them want to try more in the future!
3. Rephrasing negative feedback.
Instead of telling our children what they are doing poorly, we should help them find ways to improve and learn. This can start by having open conversations with our children about areas for growth.
For example, at the end of the week, we can ask them “What is an area that we could grow in for next week?” Be specific! If the area is completing homework on-time, help them to identify times or ways in which they can improve in this area. Sometimes we want to improve in an area and just aren’t sure how. Be their coach, and help them to get there!
When life gets stressful, it is easy for us and our children to focus on what we are doing wrong. In those moments, it is key to focus on the positive and remember that we are all rock-stars trying to do our best in this world!
Catherine Harris, MS, CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist