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How Parents Can Help Their Kids Develop Success Attributes

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By Marshall Raskind, Ph.D.

The next attribute that parents may want to look at is proactivity . They may want to think about these questions:

  • Does my child participate in classroom activities and extracurricular activities?
  • Does he make decisions and act upon those decisions?
  • Does he take responsibility for his decisions?
  • Is he assertive?
  • Is he self-confident?

And, again, parents should think about these questions not just in regards to school, but socially and, ultimately, although parents often don't think about it - employment for their kids. Hopefully proactivity will positively affect employment situations, family situations, and even recreation and leisure. So one of the key areas that they may want to help guide their child in is understanding proactivity.

I repeatedly touch on this idea of understanding the attribute itself. What does it mean? And what's the importance of it? What benefits can be reaped from pursuing or developing these various attributes? Parents want to help their child to make decisions and act upon those decisions, evaluate them, understand the pros and cons of making certain decisions. One of the things that we've seen in our work - and other people are talking more and more about it - is helping kids to become self-advocates. It's really trying to help them develop a sense where they can speak up for themselves and help direct their own destiny, so to speak. We believe that's really, really important.

In regard to perseverance , we take the same kind of approach:

  • Does my child understand perseverance?
  • Do they know what it means?
  • Do they understand the benefits of persevering - and persevering in a number of different areas?
  • Do they know how to deal with obstacles and setbacks?
  • Do they know how to adjust to change?
  • Do they know when to quit?

And we should help them think about all those things in terms of the educational, psychological, employment settings, social settings, even recreation and leisure settings. So parents might want to work with their children on: "What does perseverance mean? How can it benefit me? What are the strategies for dealing with the obstacles?" One thing that kept emerging in the study is recognizing the importance of passion, and desire, and interest in particular areas. That can be so important to these kids, particularly when they may be having such difficulty in academic settings, to find other areas that are important, whether it's in the arts, in dance, in music, in drawing. And we find in many cases so many of these kids have great talents in other areas that are really not emphasized and are really key to their success. Many of us have been able to follow our passions, desires, and interests. This goes along with niche picking. And when we're able to match those special abilities and talents to the proper setting, we tend to be more successful.

So parents should encourage their children in their passions and help them develop them - and move their thinking beyond school. Unfortunately, because there is such a strong emphasis on the school environment, we're always hitting on the kids' deficits. You know: What's not working right? What's going wrong? But it's equally important - maybe in some cases even more important - to encourage those things that are really working well for them, and those things that they love.

So the boy or girl who's a wonderful athlete should be encouraged to participate in after school sports or team sports, for example. I mean, I don't want to make it so simplistic that you don't have to consider all aspects of their lives, depending on what else they have to do, but we really do believe that's important, because if it becomes just strictly academics, they're really not going to be able to tap into their strengths and desires. Clearly, it doesn't sound like a great way to live, to always be focusing just on your deficits. That's why we talk about life success, right? There is life beyond school.

Marshall H. Raskind, Ph.D., is a learning disability researcher. He is a frequent presenter at international LD conferences and is the author of numerous professional publications on learning disabilities. He is well-known for his research on assistive technology and longitudinal studies tracing LD across the life span.