Sunday, October 7, 2007

The "I can" Attituded...

As Salaamu alaykuuna,

I wanted to share with you all a GREAT read that I am sure you all will enjoy to read taken from an article titled: The "I can" Attituded..By Laurisa White Reyes
here is the artical and the link to the magazine (The Parent Teacher) is below enjoy  salaams
Umm Samyrah

The "I can" Attituded..
By Laurisa White Reyes

I teach creative writing classes in my
home and on occasion I ask parents why
they pay me to teach their children rather
than teach them themselves. Inevitably, their
answers are pretty much the same: "I can't
write well, so how can I teach my son (or
daughter) to write?"

When pressed further, many parents
admit to me that their negative perceptions
came from a bad experience in school when
they were young. Receiving bad grades
on assignments, feeling humiliated when
mistakes were made public, or being forced
to complete a boring or difficult assignment
are just some of the reasons so many adults
lack confidence in themselves. The problem
is that their "I can't" attitudes get passed
down to the next generation.

Pessimism Is Learned
In his best selling book, Learned
Optimism: How To Change Your Mind and
Your Life, author Martin E. P. Seligman,
Ph. D. discusses the development of
self-talk in children, something he calls their
explanatory style. He states that a child's opinion
of himself and how he talks himself through
difficult situations (such as challenging school
assignments) has a great deal to do with how the
adults in his life respond to negative situations.
For example, if a mother responds with anger
at getting a small dent in her car blaming it on her
own or someone else's stupidity, the child will
learn to respond the same way. His perception
of the world and his role in it is largely shaped
by what his mother's words and behavior reveals
about her own self-perception.

"Children's antennae are constantly tuned to
the way their parents, particularly their mothers,
talk about causes of emotionally loaded events,"
observes Dr. Seligman. "It is no accident that
`Why?' is one of the first and most repeated
questions that young children ask…

Your children hang on every word of the
explanations you give, particularly when
something goes wrong."

In the area of academics, a mother's [or
teacher's] response to her child's imperfections
and mistakes has an enormous influence on his self-esteem,
as well as his overall attitude about life. When a child
earns a low score on a spelling test and his mother
scolds him for it or calls him stupid, he will develop a pessimistic

He will learn that mistakes are absolute and that he cannot do any better. Dr. Seligman reminds us that, "children believe the criticisms they get, and use them to form their explanatory style."

In contrast, when mistakes are recognized for what they are – mistakes – independent of the child's value and capabilities as a person, the child learns to see the world from an optimistic, less rigid point of view.

This is not to say that parents ought never to criticize their children. When criticism is given, it should be focused on the error rather than the child. However, never offering constructive criticism can be just as detrimental to a child as having a parent who is overly critical.

In their book The 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do, authors John C. Friel and Linda D. Friel note that in trying to avoid hurting their children's feelings, some parents fail to give criticism even when it is necessary, robbing them of the very challenges that would eventually build character and self-esteem.

"Of course we need to praise our children when they do things well," say the Friels. "But we also need to let them struggle with problems by themselves and sometimes get their reward from the fact that they solved a problem on their own.
We need to teach our kids about life. It isn't enough to pump them up with empty praise
for a job poorly done. We need to guide, teach, gently correct and help our kids move toward competence. Self-esteem, after all, comes from competence, not from incompetence…Our job as parents is to help our children discover their
own gifts and then learn to do them well."

It is vital that parents understand how debilitating negativity and pessimism can be.
Studies have found that even the most talented children, if their attitude is negative, often do poorly in school.  In adulthood, pessimism contributes to their general unhappiness and depression.  On the other hand, optimism, not talent, appears to be the primary factor behind academic success and overall satisfaction with life.

The Friels tell us that, "talent is overrated." In their research they have found that pessimists consistently "drop below their `potential,' and optimists exceed it." The good news is, however, that "if children can learn [pessimism], they can unlearn it."

Fostering Optimism Through Ownership

One way to help a child develop optimism is to allow him ownership of his own accomplishments and mistakes.

This is not what generally occurs in many school settings. When a child completes an assignment in school, the teacher corrects the assignment. She marks up the page with a red pen and tells the child everything that he did wrong.

This system of correcting assignments may work for grading math tests, but it can backfire when used on more subjective tasks, such as written compositions.
Helping Kids Achieve! The "I Can" Attitude

First of all, writing is a creative process. In putting words on
paper to express thoughts and ideas, the student has in fact placed a
little piece of himself on that paper.

He takes pride in his creation, much as he would as if he had painted a picture.
Imagine if your six-year-old came to you with a crayon drawing
he made.

As parents we would never criticize him for coloring out
of the lines or for using the wrong colors. Instead we praise him.
We tell him what a good job he's done. We know that as he gets
older, his coordination will increase and his skills will improve.

As with art, children ought to experiment with words long
before we ever even think about correcting his work. When the
child grows older, we may think it is okay now to criticize and
point out flaws.

But the truth is that hearts are still sensitive and egos easily bruised. Adults are no different than children in this aspect.

How would you feel if you had spent time writing a letter
or drawing a picture and someone took a red pen and wrote all over
it telling you everything you did wrong?

Would you want to do it again?

It isn't that corrections should not be made. However, the one
making the corrections should be the student, not the teacher.

For example, my son struggled with writing in the fourth grade.
Among his difficulties was his tendency to forget to capitalize the
fi rst letter of his sentences. I could have easily grabbed a red pen
and circled all the mistakes in his assignments, and that's just what
I did at first.

I noticed that he became frustrated whenever he had to write an
assignment. He took every correction as a personal insult. It was as
though I were criticizing him rather than the work.

I decided to try something different. Instead of me pointing out
his mistakes, I reminded him, in a pleasant tone of voice, of the rule
of capitalization. Then I asked him to read his paper to see if there
were any words he needed to capitalize.

His discoveries resulted in a little embarrassed laughter and a
prompt correction.

The rule was reinforced and his pride was left in tact.
He now remembers more often than not to capitalize the fi rst
letters in his sentences, and the moaning and groaning over writing
assignments, while still present, is slowly disappearing.

Allowing students to take ownership of their own work
– including their mistakes – makes for more responsible and happy

Learning to write well is a process, not a destination.

Once children understand that the goal is progress rather than
perfection, they soon learn that mistakes can be corrected and that
they are fully capable of completing whatever assignment comes
their way.

In time, pessimism and self-doubt are replaced with an
"I can" attitude.

The Parent Teacher - October 2007 - Page 5
Written by Laurisa Reyes

Laurisa White Reyes is the proud homeschooling mom of five children.  She is also an editor with Mapletree Publishing and the author of "Teaching Kids To Write Well: Six Secrets Every Grown-Up Should Know." Ms. Reyes can be contacted through her website at

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