Talking to Children About Their Strengths and Weaknesses
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From Parent Journal, Autumn 1996
by Dr. Mel Levine
"I must be stupid"
These statements accompany the pathetic sighs of children who misunderstand themselves. They are students with differences in learning that are causing them to underachieve and lose motivation. They have little or no understanding of why and how they are having to contend with the humiliation of failure in school. The thoughts such students harbor about their own minds are more pessimistic than they need to be. They may not admit to "feeling dumb," but they frequently conceal within themselves such beliefs. These gloomy sentiments commonly lead to a deteriorating attitude toward school, defiant behavior, depression, and plummeting self-esteem. The cycle must be broken. Demystification is a process that can be used to prevent or treat children's dangerous self-misunderstandings.
Demystification educates children about their own strengths and weaknesses. It helps them to see the relationship between their areas of weak function and problems they are having in school. Demystification sessions are conducted by a clinician or an educator. It is helpful if the parents are present, so that they can continue to reinforce the same terminology and point of view with the child at home. The following are some salient points about the crucial process of demystification, which can help children to help themselves overcome school problems:
With a clear understanding of weaknesses and strengths, it is truly remarkable to observe how well a students can help themselves. It is equally gratifying to observe the restoration of motivation and aspiration that occurs when a young person is helped to see possibilities for authentic success in life.
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