Thursday, May 21, 2015

I am Dumb

"I am so dumb," my oldest said the other day as I tucked him in for quiet time.
Shocked, I looked at him and asked, "What does dumb mean to you?"
"It means you mess up all the time and nobody likes you."

"Well then, you are anything but dumb.  Sure, you make mistakes but every body makes mistakes.  I see you as loving and fun and I really like you.  I know a lot of other people that do, too."  I paused, hoping that my words had sunken in.

He laid down, satisfied with my response and started looking at his book.

It troubled me all day.  How could my gifted and incredible child possibly think he was dumb?  Am I perpetuating that somehow?  Am I giving him self doubt?  I prayed about the right answer to give him if he said it again and hoped for an answer.

That night I got back to my book, Teach Your Children Well and read a passage about this very interaction.  (God is always one step ahead of me...) It said that kids that say, "I am bad at math" have a much healthier self image than kids that say, "I'm dumb."  One is a category and one is an overall self  esteem issue. It's a red flag that the child (or sometimes a parent or teacher) is putting on a great amount of pressure to succeed. The book mentioned affirming their efforts rather than the results.  Focus on the fact that they are working hard to solve the problem (whether it's a math problem or an issue with a friend) and tell them how proud you are of their persistance. 

I sat back to evaluate and I truly don't believe I put a great amount of pressure on him.  I expect a lot from him but I am constantly encouraging his efforts.  Still, I want to make sure I'm handling this well.
I reached out to his prediatrician who has been an incredible mentor to me.  "Nuetralize it.  Neutralize it right away," she said.   "Tell him how you see him as bright and organized and kind.  Each interaction should be encouraging.  Just keep telling him how much you believe in him."

And so I will.  I will continue to try to ease the pressure he puts on himself and take a look at how I am interacting with him as his parent and his teacher.  

How do you handle it when your child's self esteem is suddenly struggling?  Do you affirm the results (They aced the test!) or their efforts (You studied really hard!)? How can you encourage your child today? 


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