As a learning and study skills expert I often get asked how to nurture the spirit of your child.
Think about your child or teen’s spirit:
– What do they love to do?
– What makes them beam from ear to ear?
– What gives them the greatest sense of pride?
– What will they stick with, even when they’re frustrated?
The answers to these questions are a significant element how to nurture the spirit of your child or teen’s spirit. If you want them to be motivated in school, particularly if they struggle to any degree (and most children have at least some struggles in school), you must nurture their spirit!
Recently I was in a group of parents with Dr. Ned Hallowell, renowned expert in children’s health, psychology, and education, as he tried to convince a group of parents that grades don’t matter. He said repeatedly, “Good grades do not automatically guarantee success in life.” Many parents had a hard time grasping this concept. Two parents went back to join their families that night and had heart-to-heart talks with their teens. They each said something like this: “I’m sorry I’ve put so much pressure on school. I just want you to do well, but from now on, I’m going to spend more time celebrating your interests.”
The next day, both parents came back to our group, sharing stories about happy tears and hugs that had been exchanged between them and their teens the night before. Without a doubt, those families crossed the biggest hurdle in motivation in that one heartfelt and sincere conversation and had truly learned the concept of how to nurture the spirit of your child.
Yes, I promote a study skills program with the tag line, “Better grades… in less time!” And, that tag line is totally true—I want students to get better grades in less time because success in school is such a significant confidence boost. It will transform the trajectory of their life! However those “better grades” should come in the context of celebrating each child or young adult’s unique skills and talents, not in spite of them.
Ironically, you won’t see improvements until you pull back the pressure. Barbara Corcoran, best known as an “investor shark” on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” illustrates this point. She struggled in school with dyslexia, often bringing home report cards with straight Ds. Yet, she grew up to build a very successful real estate business, which she started with a $1,000 loan from her boyfriend and sold years later for $70 million.
When asked how she persevered, Barbara gave all of the credit to her mother, who always focused on the positive and emphasized her gifts. Barbara explained, “For a lot of parents, the gifts that they are helping their children find are good grades at school. It gets very narrowly defined by our system. Thank God my mother didn’t buy into that. She would say, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’ll fill in the blanks with your imagination!’ She was so off-handed about it that I never really saw it as something terrible, you know?”
Barbara explained that her son had the same challenges with dyslexia growing up. While she worked in the background to find a school better suited to help him with his reading challenges, she focused her energies towards him on emphasizing the positive. She discovered he loved sports, so she filled his life with sports. “When Tommy started getting Ds in school, I hung his report card from the chandelier. He was embarrassed, but he loved it. I was so proud that he was able to survive. When he moved up to a C, then a B, and then A’s, he was like, ‘Of course, mom! What did you think I was going to do?’”
At the time of the interview, Tommy had just been accepted into Columbia, one of the top schools in the nation, and had almost perfect scores on his SATs. No one would have guessed that would happen when he was in second grade and really struggling to earn Ds. “But once he got past the reading and writing, I found I had a math and science genius,” Barbara said. “He can read a textbook better than the best of them. But how did he get there? He got there because I preserved his confidence.”
She honored Tommy’s spirit!
Be sure that your first objective as a parent is to preserve and understand how to nurture the spirit of your child. If school struggles have dampened their confidence, caused them to withdraw, or created a rift between you, then realign your priorities and shift your objectives away from school and onto their spirit!
Next, take an active interest in their interests. Support their interests by learning about them and providing more opportunities for your child. All too often, the things we should be celebrating and nurturing become “guilty pleasures” for our kids. When we say things like, “If only he’d put the same energy into school as he does into sports,” we make the child feel guilty for being good at sports… and enjoying it. They get the message that the only things they should value in life are the things they don’t enjoy. This is a recipe for a long, dreadful life!
Finally, connect those interests to careers. The very first thing we do in SOAR® Study Skills is explore students’ spirits and determine their greatest strengths through personal inventories of their Multiple Intelligences. We then correlate these strengths to potential careers. Students love this exploration; it is such an exciting discovery for them!
The process of connecting their strengths and interests to their future is extraordinarily powerful. For many students, this is the first time their strengths have been recognized as a good thing. It is also the first time they have seen a direct connection between their passion and a potential career. There is no better way to build confidence and inspire motivation!
Susan Kruger is the author of SOAR Study Skills; A Simple and Efficient System for Earning Better Grades in Less Time. Click here to get Susan’s FREE Guide, Six Steps to Conquer the Chaos: How to Organize and Motivate Students for Success. Kruger is also an expert on how to nurture the spirit of your child.