Back in 1976, my cousin Michael and I were both 9 years old and about to enter the 4th grade. This was the summer that we both had to memorize our multiplication tables. At some point before school started, Michael’s dad (my uncle) sat us down in his den and started a game with us, asking us random multiplication facts. I did ok, but as soon as I got asked what was 8×7, I froze. Was it 54 or 56? Michael jumped in and answered correctly, and won the game. To this day I still have to pause just a mili-second longer when working a multiplication problem that involves the 8’s or 9’s!
Michael and I weren’t part of the generation that was taught, “Everyone’s a winner and takes home a trophy”. Instead we were taught that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and the importance of how to be a good sport in each circumstance. The math competition with my cousin inspired me to study harder, and by the time 4th grade started, I knew my multiplication facts, yes, even my 8’s and 9’s! But it became clear as the years clicked by that math was never my natural strength. And my parents were okay with that, although they made it crystal clear that I still had to do my best, even if that meant I had to work a little harder than other kids who naturally gravitated to the more analytical subjects.
We parents know that each of our children have unique strengths and weaknesses. It’s how God wired each of us for His purpose. How do we encourage those strengths and yet at the same time encourage perseverance in the things that don’t come naturally easy?
One way we’ve instilled perseverance in our kids is by using goal-setting strategies. We’re not expecting perfection or A’s in every subject; instead, we start small. Children often will underestimate what it will take to meet a goal, so parents need to help them plan out realistic strategies to meet a reachable goal.
If reading is something that your child struggles with, maybe encourage them to read for 20 minutes a day, sitting beside them and taking turns reading a paragraph, page or chapter. If science is the area in which they struggle, maybe the goal could be an “honorable mention” in the class science fair. Of course, this would require parents teaching the child the steps to achieving this goal – from how to research the topic, to documentation of the experiment, to the final application of the results.
Goal-setting doesn’t always have to involve school subjects, either. We’ve utilized these strategies for behavioral issues, even for learning how to ride a bike! It’s a step by step process that kids seem to respond well to.
Positive reinforcement works wonders!! Applaud their efforts! Achieving small goals in areas which don’t necessarily come easy for us really instills a sense of accomplishment, and then a desire to keep going in our efforts to improve.
We prayerfully speak to each child’s strengths and weaknesses, understanding and all the while reassuring them that God created them wonderfully and individually! He has a plan for their lives. Instill in them confidence in who they are in God’s Kingdom.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Lisa Strnad is an independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women’s groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville.