How Do I Support My Child’s Success? Check 7 Expert Tips!


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Thrivers are not born; thrivers are made! For children to shine their brightest, a structured, loving and safe childhood also needs to include experiencing competency, agency, and autonomy. As educational psychologist Michele Borba discovered, it turns out that there are 7 Skills that act as boosters to “mental toughness, resilience, social competence, self-awareness and moral strength”.  Read on to see how to help a child shine their best!

  1. Facilitate Self-Confidence: Take the opportunity for your child to have an experience or participate in something in which they can only attribute their “success” to their own strengths and efforts. “I can” only comes from “I overcame”. Standing back as an observer to their process communicates the much-needed feeling of being believed-in. In contrast, “hovering, snowplowing, and rescuing” obstruct the development of self-assuredness.

2. Teach Emotional Vocabulary and Cultivate Empathy:

  a) “Label Emotions” using helpful phrases, such as “You’re excited!” or “You seem frustrated.”

  b“Ask Questions” to normalize all feelings, such as saying, “How did that make you feel?”, or “You seem sad, am I right?” It’s HOW feelings are expressed that’s critical to avoiding misunderstandings!

  c)  “Share Feelings” such as “I didn’t relax much so I’m really tense”, which helps create a space in which your child feels safe to express their own feelings.

  d)  “Notice Others” by asking your child about the facial expressions and body language of other people they see, such as saying, “How do you think that woman feels?”, or “Have you ever felt like that?”

3. Teach Self-Control by Giving “Signals”: This is the astonishing, yet relatively underutilized secret weapon behind a child developing optimal resilience and launching into thriving.

“The ability to control your attention, emotions, thoughts, actions, and desires is one of the most highly correlated strengths to success…”.

There are two kinds of techniques you can use to capitalize on this: “Attention Signals”, and “Stress Pauses”. To help a child switch focus to a new activity, you can, for example, agree on the attention-signal of muting their tv to announce the 5-minute transition warning. To take advantage of stress-pauses, teach them to remember to employ a pausing prompt such as, “stop / think / calm / act”. The repetition of this is key for establishment of as a habitual skill: Again, thrivers are not born; thrivers are made!   

4. Integrity – Cultivate a “Moral Compass”: What we mean when we’re talking about integrity is our “learned beliefs, attitudes, capacities, and skills” that help us determine the difference between right and wrong. The result of this formation is the moral compass by which a person lives, and it is a primary goal of parenting to facilitate our child’s formation of one.

  a)  Expectations are key and should be clearly laid out for your child, while still allowing room for them to craft their individual identity.

  b)  Praise ethical behavior and shows of integrity – be specific!

  c)  “Because” is a crucial word to include, for lasting impact, in your descriptive sentence of WHY you are praising them.

5. Facilitate & Encourage Curiosity

  a)  For play and activities, try providing a variety of materials and toys that require your child to use their imagination and innovation in order to create or produce things, or to enrich play scenarios, preferably with increasing complexity.

  b)  Playing board or card games is great too! Maximize benefit to them by having a child design their own board game and teach others how to play it.

  c)  Modeling inquisitiveness also facilitates greater curiosity by posing open-ended instead of specific questions, asking for their thoughts instead of giving answers, and expressing wonder instead of stating predictions.

  d)  Raise the bar further by using this key enriching technique: Pose these “I Wonder…WHAT / HOW / WHO / WHY – ?” questions!

6. Facilitate Perseverance: It’s so much easier and alluring to give up, especially when discouraged by mistakes or disappointing outcomes but your child needs encouragement to stick to it so that they come out shining!

  a)  You can steer them away from getting bogged down in “catastrophizing” the situation by instead, helping them to identify and focus on solving the core issue, seeing a new way forward.

  b)  If it’s a task or goal that’s feeling overwhelming to them, “chunking it out” is a popular recommendation. In other words, first break things down into ever smaller, more digestible pieces. Then, help them isolate their focus of attention to a more comfortable, one step at a time method of progression toward the end goal.

  c)  Building confidence through perseverance often happens when the most difficult piece is accomplished first. The greatest confidence is built without assistance. However, the opposite order can also be true, depending on the child, so it’s worth experimenting to learn their style.

7. Model Optimism over Pessimism:

This is a lynchpin among these skills and especially in its relationship to the point above, “Perseverance”. That’s because it’s Optimism, specifically, the skill of employing an optimistic perspective that encourages a person to persevere by reframing challenge or adversity in a temporary light, as opposed to the permanency-feeling, shade of pessimism.

Thrivers are not born; thrivers are made! You can do best by your child by reframing in the positive about their life, and setting a good example for them, by doing it in yours. Remind them that instead of having problems, we encounter challenges; rather than problem-solve, we solution-seek! And, nothing negative is permanent: “This too shall pass”! Remind them that Change is the only constant…and in that, are their endless opportunities to SHINE!

Resource: Michele Borba, EdD, is an educational psychologist, parenting expert, and author of “Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine” and “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World.” She lives in Palm Springs, California, with her husband, and is the mother of three sons. Follow her on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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