Friday, February 29, 2008

The Power of Positive Thinking

When I received an email from the Parent Bloggers Network, talking about a new book by Jennifer Fox M Ed*, I was intrigued. The book is entitled Your Child's Strengths: Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them. Ms Fox as been an educator for twenty-five years, and aims to change the way that teachers and parents talk about and evaluate children. She is passionate that her "strengths-based philosophy provides the tools to prepare kids for the future in a world that demands greater adaptability and creative thinking than ever before."

It's interesting to me because as a social worker, my agency was making the same changes in order to work with adults, and finding that when you focus on the positive in any situation, it's bound to have better results than constantly focusing on fixing their "problems."

What parent likes to sit and hear about everything that's wrong with their child? It's exciting to me that there is an educator who is taking such a proactive step in re-creating the paradigm, as I'm sure that looking from the strong end of the stick will promote parents to be more involved and open to discussion about their children. Also, it's quite apparent that our current system is flawed. Hopefully a more productive system will entice tax-payers and law makers to ensure that funding is re-directed to our education and social service system in the future.

As for H's school career, I'm hopeful that there will be more and more educators adopting Ms Fox's philosophy by the time H is in school. My husband, J (and I'm not just saying this), is an incredibly bright person. When he was in upper-elementary to middle-school, his brightness sometimes led to boredom, which led to mischief. Not illegal activity, just restlessness. One of his teachers is reported to have smugly told him that he was going to end up in prison...I was really hoping to send her an announcement to his medical school graduation but, alas, did not.

That story has always disgusted me, because I can't imagine telling any child that, especially when you're in a position of power and influence. Even if that child was headed for trouble, would you say it? Would you want to be the person putting that thought out? Wouldn't it have been better to talk to J and his parents about the fact that he was very intelligent and thinking of ways to harness his energy when the workload or curriculum was below him? I hope that all educators understand what an impact they have on the children in their classrooms, and the adults that parent them.

But I digress...

The email asked that we, as parent bloggers, take the opportunity to openly talk about the positive attributes of our children. As my posts are usually full of sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, I thought this may be a challenge. Good thing I have such a great kid to write about.

I know that I've talked about how hard the adjustment has been to staying at home, but there's obviously a reason that I've enjoyed being here. H is such an imaginative and creative boy, and he has really begun to display all the empathy, enthusiasm and other sentiments that you really hope, as a parent, your kids will.

I've talked before about him rocking his "baby" to sleep, and he's constantly making "cookies" or other treats for me out of random things in his bedroom. He's very concerned about other people, asking "You Okay?" when he gets the smallest social signal that they may be uncomfortable, and rushing over to crying babies to ensure that someone is meeting their needs.
We had H's first "Parent and Pike" swimming lesson at the Y yesterday, and it was so much fun. As we do more and more activities together, I'm really seeing where he's inherited (or adopted) certain pieces of my and J's personalities. Like J, H was very hesitant about the whole experience at first. He likes to stand back and observe any new situation, especially groups, before he joins in. I planned to go ten minutes early, so we could be in the water before the lesson started, and he was able to see the other kids his same age being active and happy without it being too overwhelming.

Like me, he was shaking and clinging to me, but with a huge grin on his face saying over and over "I love this! This is fun!" Whenever I was (am) uncertain about something, I just put on that smile and keep trucking along, knowing that it will get better. By the time the lesson ended, he didn't want to get out of the water, so we were able to float around some more before I got him ready and took him to child-watch so that I could do my own water work-out (which made me realize it was definitely the breast-stroke that made the concerning excess of agua mentioned in the prior post; guess I'll be avoiding that move for awhile.)

I could go on and on about all the great things about him, but I must say that I'm most excited to see how he'll interact with, and love, his new little brother.

*(From the biography published on the Barnes and Noble website); Jenifer Fox, M Ed has worked in day and boarding schools, single sex and coed schools, as a teacher and administrator for twenty-five years. She is currently head of the Purnell School in Pottersville, New Jersey. She holds a BS in communications from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, an MA in English from Middlebury College, and an M Ed in school administration from Harvard University.

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