Jackson is a bright child. While he sends me to the limits of my patience as a strong willed, intense and sometimes difficult to raise little boy, he is also intelligent and advanced for his age in many areas like verbal skills, reasoning, perception, etc.
But every child has his strengths and weaknesses. While Jackson at four has long ago mastered his alphabet and counting and is now reading simple words and doing small math problems, he is not as developed in fine motor skills like coloring and printing. Never being one to sit still, Jackson was not attracted to quiet activities like coloring. I didn’t push him to color and let him be.
Compounding the problem, with his perfectionist tendencies, Jackson avoids tasks that he doesn’t excel at. He gets extremely frustrated when he can’t do something as well as he wants to.
So when he attempted to draw a picture and he couldn’t make it look like the vision in his mind, he got upset and gave up. Mastering the art of holding and manipulating a crayon or a pencil is not his idea of fun.
So now at four and a half, he can not print or color as well as he would like, or as well as some of the other children his age. My heart broke for my little guy when he told me a number of months ago, “The kids make fun of me because I scribble.” Concerned, I decided I better try to encourage him to practice printing and tracing more at home to improve his skills.
Tonight as he worked in a workbook on a tracing exercise I tried to encourage him, “Good job Jackson.”
To which he looked at me and said, “No, it is not. You tell me it is a good job because you want me to feel happy, but other people will doubt it.”
I must tell you I was a little stunned (those were his exact words) and I have no idea what I replied. I want to encourage him genuinely – and I was. I could see that he was trying his best and that makes his effort “a good job.” But I also remember the feeling of disregarding my father’s compliments when I was growing up because they were too easily given and cherishing my mother’s because they were harder to earn.
I guess it will be a tricky balance trying to encourage sincerely, helping my son feel proud of himself, without making him feel like “Mom is just saying it because she has to.”
What are your tips for encouraging your children without having them dismiss your words as obligatory “parent” compliments?