Spotlight on Children’s Mental Health: Celebrating Their Strengths

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So many times, we see our children’s troublesome behaviors as a general picture of who they are.

Even though we don’t mean to, we label them in our minds. Oh, he’s always got his head in the clouds – he never pays attention. Or, She’s so chatty and always getting in trouble with her teachers. It’s all too easy to fall into that trap, because we want the best for them, and we want them to succeed. If there are stumbling blocks along the way, we want to remove them – and sometimes we see our children’s behavior as a stumbling block to success.

Consider this: people are often shaped by the obstacles they overcome - such as a learning disability - more than by inherent talent, intelligence, luck or money. And as for school, don’t forget Tom Edison was thrown out of public school, and Albert Einstein was lousy in Math class.

Every now and then, it’s a good idea to step back and recognize the positive qualities our children have. We need to recognize the “good stuff” and let them know that we see that too. By “good stuff”, I don’t mean achievements such as grades, trophies or awards. I’m talking about the qualities we want them to have as adults, such as honesty, perseverance, creativity, loyalty, determination, thoughtfulness, resourcefulness.

Emily did poorly in English last semester, but she plays the piano well and scores high in math.
Jeanine needs tutoring in science, but she writes funny stories. Fifteen-month-old Billy doesn't talk much, but he feeds himself.

The behaviors listed above show creativity, resourcefulness, adaptability, and perseverance. In
1983, Dr. Howard Gardner created a theory of Multiple intelligences. He theorized that people can be smart in a number of ways and came up with a list of eight recognized intelligences. Some of these are Interpersonal, Linguistic, Naturalistic, Kinesthetic, and there are four others. Dr. Gardner points out that a person can excel in two or possibly three, but can’t excel at all 8 intelligences.
(See the link below to more information about Multiple Intelligences)

How do you uncover your child’s multiple intelligences?

  • Play with your children on a regular basis. It makes them feel very special. Play may include throwing ball, making a mud pies with them or even a walk in the nearby park. Resist intervening and let them play with the puzzles or the blocks in any way they prefer.
  • Ask your kids what they want to be, what their dreams are. If they want to become a doctor encourage them to pursue study and practice in that area.
  • Validate your child’s interests - Instead of criticizing your child's skills, validate them by saying, "Wow, I noticed you like playing games -- and you're really good at it!"
  • Follow your child's lead. Support the choices your child makes, even if they are not
    the ones you'd expected.
  • Don't over-program your child's time or over-structure activities. Let your child develop his or her own creative energy.

Remember: Whether your child loves or hates the activity you want him to do, it's not a reflection on you. In fact, it's not about you at all. Remember to put aside your own interests, prejudices and preconceptions. Give them the courage to see their own gifts and talents, and boost their confidence by telling them you see it too. Every human being has a gift—usually more than one, experts say. But it takes courage to see it and confidence to play it out. That's why we need to help our children see their gifts and to believe in them—and in themselves.

** Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences http://www.niu.edu/facdev/resources/guide/learning/howard_gardner_theory_multiple_intelligences.pdf

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