Focus on Strengths When Communicating with Your Young Child
Effective communication with your young child doesn't just happen as adults, we need to set the stage
In previous articles we've discussed that talking and listening are important. We also talked about the importance of sharing our adult control. There is another area to consider: focusing on strengths when communicating with your young child.
When we focus on the strengths of young children we encourage and support them in ways that opens up the channels to effective communication. We set the stage for children to want to communicate with us because we are building trust and establishing an emotional environment that is conducive to exploration and developing confidence.
What do we mean by "focusing on strengths" and how do we accomplish this?
Focusing on a child's strengthsmeans that we pay attention to what the child CAN do instead of looking at what the child cannot do. It means that we encourage what the child does well instead of worrying about the areas that are perhaps not developmentally "on schedule." It means that we understand that although children pass through all the same developmental milestones they do so at varying rates. Your child may learn to read in pre-school while your neighbor's child may learn to read in second grade. Both are ok. It means we measure a child's development according to his own pace instead of going by a pre-set scale. We respect individual differences and levels of development.
How do we accomplish focusing on strengths?
We simply look for those strengths and support them. We have learned the importance of observing and listening in the first article of this series. Now we use those observation skills to note what our children's strengths are.
For example, you know that your pre-school child loves drawing and painting but she isn't writing her name yet, even though her classmates are. Instead of panicking and having her trace her name ten times a day, focusing on her strengths would mean that we support her love for drawing, painting. As she continues to paint and draw she will actually strengthen all the skills needed for learning to write. Painting and drawing are pre-reading and pre-writing skills so as she practices these she is moving towards writing. She is strengthening her small motor skills and her visual skills and forming beginning letters in the squiggles of those drawings and paintings. That is how writing is formed.
Another example: your toddler is crawling around everywhere. However, your older daughter was already walking at this age. Instead of pulling your toddler up onto her feet in an effort of getting her to walk, simply let her crawl as much as possible. Give her more practice crawling and when she is ready she will begin to stand and walk. By crawling she is strengthening her large motor skills and when she is strong enough she will stand and walk.
Consider this adult analogy: Imagine that you are taking a beginning class in cooking. You're pretty good with scrambled eggs and you can make toast and coffee but you've burned every cake you ever tried to bake and your pot roast isn't really edible. You put yourself in this cooking class ready to learn the next step towards good pot roast and the teacher comes in and asks you to make a three course French gourmet meal.
How do you think your meal would turn out? How do you think you would feel in the process? I don't know about you, but in that situation, I would definitely feel overwhelmed - and incompetent besides. I might be tempted to leave that class and vow to eat in restaurants the rest of my life. I certainly wouldn't be terribly excited about continuing my exploration of the world of cooking. This is exactly the experience we don't want our young children to have. We don't want to discourage them by asking them to do what they cannot do. We don't want them to lose their natural enthusiasm for exploring and learning about their world.
We do want young children to feel confident, successful, curious, and eager to explore their world and we want to establish a lifelong love for learning. We want them to be confident and to feel successful. This is accomplished by accepting their strengths. It is accomplished when we use those strengths as a foundation for moving on to the next level of growth.
When these goals are established, young children will experience a world where they want to communicate. This is the environment in which they will develop language and where we can talk effectively with our young children.
About the Author
Ursula Ansbach is the owner of the online furniture store MyBabyFurniturePlus. She is also a parent, grandparent, educator and teacher who lives on the shores of Lake Erie with her family. http://www.mybabyfurnitureplus.com