The school year is off to a great start. As things are starting to settle down, and we are getting back into the routine, I thought it might be helpful to pass along an article that really struck me not only as a psychologist but also as a parent. Please find the link below.
I hope you gained something from this piece. I think it gives a fresh perspective on ways to look at brain functioning, especially from the perspective of a student with ADHD or a learning difference. I have had so many students enter my office saying that they cannot do the work because of their diagnosis. We then discuss how a label does not define us. Actually, we are not destined to have trouble with algebra or reading Great Expectations. It is not just engrained in us or something we are forever “stuck’ with. Our brains are plastic, an ever flexible muscle. Similar to working out. By working this muscle, we are able to overcome our weakness and become MORE comfortable with being uncomfortable. In other good news, the more advanced parts of the brain do not fully develop until adolescence is well over. Therefore, children’s brains are more malleable. In other words, the earlier we help them to become more of a “growth mindset,” the more ownership they will take over their decisions, which, in turn, will more likely lead to a more established and positive self-concept.
As a parent, it is important to continually emphasize this message by praising for specific effort and not for “being smart.” As our children take academic, emotional, and behavioral ownership, you will find your load lighten as a parent. On a deeper level, when we praise our kids, it is important that we attune to their experience and not focus on how our children’s actions reflect upon us. For example, if a child engages in a behavior that is noteworthy, it is important to steer clear from the verbalizations directed toward your own pride in the behavior (even though it is perfectly normal to feel that way), such as “You are so awesome” or “Good job. Just like I taught you.” Instead, we want to acknowledge them for their effort (i.e. Wow. You studied math for two hours last night by going through the homework and studying old quizzes even though math is not your favorite subject. You kept working on it. Good for you. You are now seeing the connection between hard work and improved test scores.) One more note: It is additionally vital to identify with your child on how certain subject matters are frustrating and the normalcy of that experience. By empathizing with them, they will gain an understanding that frustration is common and oftentimes the impetus for helping us succeed. As your child accomplishes more, they will be able to integrate that experience into future accomplishments and persevere.
Contributed by Dr. Caroline Ford, PhD, Director of Psychological Services at Fairhill School