Step 3: Finding Positive Skills

Finding Positive Skills

This is a simple strategy and one that gradually builds a strong sense of self in your child. The real key to this strategy is your approach to parenting, and the great news is that small changes in your approach will show great results for your child.

Psychology Fun Facts

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  • Being good at something produces a powerful feeling of pride in a child. Children are often very happy to be good at things which may seem quite minor or even trivial to adults. Allowing them to enjoy the experience of being good at something helps develop a sense of self and lays a foundation for good self-esteem and pride.

  • Some children naturally focus on what they can’t do instead of what they can do. Breaking things into small chunks and helping children see how close they are to achieving a goal builds a positive sense of self.

  • Pace your child’s development. Practising skills a child can complete successfully 80% of the time allows them to develop a good sense of self without it being too easy and becoming boring. Tasks which children fail repeatedly can lead to low self-esteem as a child will conclude they often fail and are not good at things.

  • Being criticised by parents or pushed hard to do activities your children don’t feel ready for can have a negative impact on your child’s sense of self. Parents need to find a good balance between encouragement and allowing a child to make their own decisions.

Activity Time

  • Step 1: Focusing on your child’s strengths.

    Start by noting down 10 things your child is good at and enjoys. Remember, in child psychology 80% completion is considered mastery.

    A few examples to help get you started are:
    • Puzzles
    • Spelling
    • Sharing
    • Compassionate
    • Football
    • Knows all the characters from tv shows
    • Reading
    • Drawing pictures
    • Caring for pet dog
    • Watering the plants

    If you have struggled to write down 10 things your child is good at, revisit your own personal standards and focus on what your child can do and not what they can’t do.
    Speaking with a friend, your child’s teacher or child carer can help you get a perspective of how your child compares to others of their age. Remember, you are focusing on what your child can do, not what they are better than everyone else at.

  • Step 2: Encouraging positive skills

    Now you have a list of 10 things your child is good at and enjoys.

    Over the next three weeks, encourage your child to play these games and complete these tasks on a regular basis.

    As they are doing these tasks, praise them for doing so using descriptive praise.

WeParent Top Tip

Descriptive praise is an excellent motivator and is great for building a positive sense of self and reinforcing good behaviour. When children get praise for behaving well, they’re likely to want to keep behaving well.

Descriptive praise is when you tell your child exactly what it is that you like. For example, ‘I like the way you’ve found a spot for everything in your room, now you can easily find where you’ve put something when you’re looking for it’. This helps your child understand what you mean. It’s also more genuine than non-specific praise like ‘You’re a good boy’.

You can’t give too much praise. But praise can lose its impact if it isn’t specific or if you use it when your child hasn’t done anything. This might teach your child that they don’t have to do anything to be praised.

  • Step 3: Keep it going

    As you notice your child’s mastery approach 100% on these specific tasks, then it’s time to introduce slightly more difficult tasks.

    Let’s use an example of jigsaws. Starting off with very basic jigsaw puzzles, and then going from 5 to 10 piece, to 20 piece puzzles as your child stops needing your help to finish each size.

    Make sure you use descriptive praise for tasks they are still learning and not tasks they have become competent at. E.g. If your child is learning a 20 piece jigsaws, they don’t need praise for completing a 5 piece jigsaw with ease.

    Remember the focus is on helping your child learn to be good at something! Follow their lead. Descriptive praise encourages your child to progress.

    This is a fantastic approach to use permanently!

Where to next?

Well done on completing this strategy in teaching your child to have a positive sense of self.  It’s time to head back to the Module of The Week section on our Categories Page to continue on with the final two strategies – “Managing Self-Talk” and “Mindful Relection”.

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