Valuing your child's individual gifts

Children recognize the value of their talents when their talents affect others, so allow your child to use his skills to help another person

Opinion

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By China Hill

Contributor

Schools use grades and test scores to assess a student's intellectual self-worth. Titles like honor student, valedictorian, and reader leader sometimes cause students who don't hold these titles to question own their abilities. Therefore, students with mostly A's and high test scores receive academic awards while students with mediocre grades and test scores are continually overlooked and implicitly told they aren't good enough.

Schools play a major role in shaping children's self-efficacy, i.e. the belief in one's ability to achieve. However, parents play an even greater role. Parents have the advantage of knowing their children's talents in all areas of their lives (academic, social, creative, etc.). But often, instead of honoring their children's natural abilities and interests, parents get caught up in the standards that schools and society use to mark children as exceptional — test scores and grades.

Instead of stressing to make sure your child succeeds within this high-stakes test system, relax and concentrate on your child's individual self-worth and innate gifts. These are the things that will cause your child to excel not only in school, but in life.

Identify skills and interests

You probably already know the areas in which your child excels — maybe creative problem-solving, illustration, or robotics to name a few. Many more skills can be brought to light by having your child take a skills/interests assessment. Skills and interests assessments are questionnaires your child can complete to determine their passions and identify areas where they excel. It is important to help your child recognize skills that are also interests. Such skills are the ones that your child not only does well, but likes to do well, which means he will work to improve upon the skills when challenged.

The website for CAREERwise Education offers three assessment tools that older children can take to learn their particular skills and interests. Career One Stop also provides assessments that students may use to identify what they love and what they are good at doing.

Use positive reinforcement

Parents should make it a point to praise the talents their children naturally possess. For example, if your child can easily organize or persuade others to follow his lead, compliment him on this skill. Let him know in which careers those skills are most needed. For example, those in business must be highly organized, and entrepreneurs are some of the best leaders. Tell your child how well he can implement the skill opposed to others. When your child shows that skill, be sure to affirm his ability to do it and ask him how he does what he does. Such attention and affirmation can boost his self-confidence in his own unique gift, which can make him more willing to show off his skills and value them.

Create opportunities for use

Build your child's belief in his own capabilities by having him showcase his skills continually. For example, if your child writes creatively and enjoys it, provide him with a book of story prompts which he can use as a starting point. Also, get him involved in creative writing clubs at school or within the community. If none are available, encourage your child to ask his school administrator, block club president, or pastor if he might start one. You may also check the Calendar or Community sections of neighborhood papers, like the Austin Weekly News, for opportunities at churches and local organizations where your child can use his skill through volunteering or taking a class. By continually utilizing his skills, your child will naturally improve upon them and increase his self-efficacy.

Showing off skills

Children recognize the value of their talents when their talents affect others, so allow your child to use his skills to help another person. For example, if your child enjoys explaining things, have her teach her grandmother the features of her new iPhone. If your child is a natural leader, have him lead the activities at his younger sibling's next birthday party. If your child loves to takes pictures, have her take pictures at the next family event and create a photo album for a relative. When your child sees the good they bring to the world, they will learn to value their skills all the more and, hopefully, come to value themselves, regardless of their grades or test scores.

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