Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Obtaining Confidence: Why Do Some Kids Find It So Hard to Find, and Even Harder to Sustain?

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Obtaining Confidence: Why Do Some Kids Find It So Hard to Find, and Even Harder to Sustain?

Article excerpt

A parent wrote me that she is finally asking for help after trying unsuccessfully to train her 6-year-old developmentally delayed child to "take it on the chin."

After I closed my dropped mouth and got my brain back in gear, I responded by telling her that no child should have to "take it on the chin," much less a 6-year-old with learning issues!

The American iconic image of the tough guy has no place in the world of a developing child. Why should it?

Growing up is hard enough without the added stress of developmental or learning issues.

However, I have seen too many times in too many classrooms where children are told more or less to "suck it up" and "keep going." Now, I am not saying that children do not have to learn to how to "work well with others," prioritize reactions to different situations, or to make valid social judgments. What I am saying that not all reactions can be categorized as over-reactions and it is the supervising adult who needs to guide the child to learn the difference.

Many of the children that come to see me in my practice suffer from low self-esteem. They have learned to fail. They have learned to expect to be chosen last. They have learned in many cases to be invisible.

For these children, every social situation, every classroom, every birthday party is as if they have landed on an alien planet--unsure of the rules, and confused about what they are supposed to be doing--and all the while deeply wanting to "fit in."

Many of these children are "on guard," ready for the rejection before it even happens, making a negative outcome a forgone conclusion.

No matter the cause, no matter the learning issue, no matter the economic background, or a myriad of other factors, what all these children have in common is a lack of confidence.

Confidence and competence are more than just neighbors in a dictionary; they are intrinsically inter-related concepts necessary for forming a secure foundation for emotional and intellectual stability.

Children with developmental concerns often need help in acquiring these essential attributes.

In a recent handwriting class that I conducted a young boy came in and it was easy to immediately see that he was very ill at ease in a situation of "strangers." While other children chatted with their new classmates, "Andrew" sat quietly. When supplies were being passed out he was the first to notice that he was "not first." When it was activity time he pushed himself to the front. Within an hour of being in the classroom, other kids were already moving away from him.

After the first activity began I asked "Andrew" to come outside to talk with me. When I asked him how he was feeling and to talk to me, one of his first remarks was, "no one at school likes me." On the defensive, fight or flight reactions loaded, Andrew had already pegged himself as an outsider.

In a similar class, Carl, bright, smiling and cooperative, did not speak. Obviously he understood what to do, but when it came time to volunteer to be a leader or to go first he shrank to the back of the line. When supplies were being given out, he often passed his and waited until everyone got what they needed and then he took for himself. When play activities were going on, Carl could be seen on the edges of the activity fiercely interested and afraid to join in.

Although these are two different examples, both boys share one thing in common; they lacked confidence and did not feel competent enough to try new things. …

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