I often tell a story to the families with whom I work:
When I was in Jr. High I had a tough experience with a math class during which I developed some pretty strong negative feelings. Ever since then my attitude was that I am bad at maths (yes, it looks strange to me too, but I accept that ‘maths’ is the appropriate term for mathematics as a category).
These days I don’t feel I’m bad at maths, though I still avoid them somewhat, especially the types which are similar to those with which I had difficulty. I think most of what helped me get over this was later experiences with teachers who encouraged me. I think that if, at the time I was in the class, I had been encouraged and helped through my negative feelings I would never have developed that attitude.
I tell them that since their kids are having a tough experience with speaking we need to focus in on providing a lot of praise for all communicative attempts. We don’t want to let those negative feelings about their communication skills turn into an attitude that they’re a bad talker!
Yet is that enough?
Today I learned I love avocados! I mean I adore them! Think of it, over 40 years on this earth and I never had an avocado. I had some guacamole once and disliked it and decided I hated avocados having never even tried one. With no outside motivation to rethink my feeling that I didn’t like avocados it took me half of a lifetime to even try one and find out that my attitude that I was an avocado hater was wrong!
Praise your kids’ attempts, in all areas, not just the ones they’re good at or having trouble with. Sometimes one feeling can spring from another with an incredibly small connection. I could have decided I didn’t like any number of ingredients in guacamole but I chose avocado. Don’t let your kids wait half their lives to learn that they love reading or writing or talking. Watch for signs that they’re developing feelings about a particular subject and help them through those feelings. It’s natural to have difficulty with things. The goal isn’t to avoid having a tough time but to work through them and learn from them.
Oh yeah, if you haven’t tried an avocado you’re missing out!