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Helping Your Child Be Competitive, but Compassionate in a Global Economy

by Suzanne Martin

“Ability without opportunity means nothing.” -Lavender, 7 years old from Kenya

Whether you live in Kenya or New York City, parents seem to want the same things for their children.They want their children to be happy and have a bright future. I work as a Special Education ItinerantTeacher. I teach students with special needs in their homes as well as in their schools on a one on one basis.

I have met all different kinds of parents from across the world with varying educational levels,economic and social backgrounds, but the intent is always the same. They just want the best for their child.

I, myself, am not a parent, but I will soon be an aunt and my type A tendencies are already showing. “They must be competitive!!!” I said to my sister about her unborn child. I then proceeded to ask her about whether she had bought Baby Einstein yet and had plans to teach the child Spanish and
Chinese. My sister rolled her eyes and joked about my comments, but the thing is…I am not kidding.

I work with children with special needs and know that there are inherent challenges there but there are also inherent strengths. The goal is for your child whether they be typically developing or have special needs to be happy and shine in their own way in a global economy.
Here are my tips on how:
Provide Unconditional Love– Sometimes with children and especially children with special needs, there can be a heavy emphasis on the behavior and behavior modification (ex. Praise this and ignore that). I know I have been guilty of it. However, true effectiveness (and self esteem for the child) comes
from the connection that a child has particularly with his or her parents. A great book about this topicis “Keeping Your Child in Mind: Overcoming Defiance, Tantrums, and Other Everyday Behavior Problems by Seeing the World through Your Child’s Eyes” by Dr. Claudia M. Gold. Dr. Gold’s focus is
not on “what to do” but “on how to be” with your child.

Figure Out How Your Child Learns Best- Are they a visual learner? Do they learn best if it is in a
song? Learn what works for them and do it as much as possible.

Help Them Identify What They Are Good at Early On- This is a biggie. For some people, they naturally discover their talents early on and pursue them. The most successful people I know started what is now their career as a hobby when they were a kid. However, for some their strengths and a
career that would make them happy is not always so clear. Aptitude and personality tests during high school can help with this. Johnson O’Connor Research foundation does in depth aptitude test and help with identifying career matches. There is also the Myers Brigg personality test and the Strong Interest Test that can be helpful. The world is becoming increasingly specialized. It is key to know and use your strengths while working on your challenges.

Make Learning Fun- A big trend in education is gaming and making education more fun. Academic Skill Builders: Online Educational Games allows players to play children from other countries while they build skills in mathematics and other subjects. Sploder.com is a site that helps you make your
own online games for free. Geek Dad : Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share by Ken Denmead is also a winner.

Encourage Children to Have the Time to Follow their Passions– Many of the most successful people I know started learning about their field as a kid through a hobby…. However, you need time to do it! Over-scheduling seems to a sign of our times, but allow time for children to develop their own
interests will help them in the future.

Technology is Your Friend- Help your child stay current with technology  Develop Awareness of the World as Well as Compassion Towards the Less Fortunate- One of the best ways to learn about the world is to travel. However, that is not always in everyone’s budget.

Exploring different neighborhoods, make friends with people from other counties, and discussing the paper with children is a great way to expand their consciousness. Also donating time or money to charities sets an example about how we are all connected and how we can all make a difference.

In my free time, I am personally involved in fundraising for a documentary called “Oasis-Together, One.” We are trying to raise $5,000 to finish the film that would not only help Flying Kites orphanages in Kenya but this organization is also helping 500 unregistered orphanages go
through the process with the government to get funding so that they can provide proper care and education. With a contribution of $100, you also get to go to the screening. To find out more, please check out: http://www.indiegogo.com/KenyanOrphanagesDocumentary. Supporting this cause will
give children like Lavender who said “Ability without opportunity means nothing” a chance like your child has too.

In a global society, children will have to learn quickly. As parents and educators, we need to do the same to best prepare children for a future with both lots of possibilities to make a positive impact and competition. What are you doing to help your child be both compassionate and competitive?

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