Thursday, March 20, 2008

Self-Esteem, Bonding, Enjoyment

My son Andrew and I just completed six baseball spring training games in six days in Florida. We are fans of the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox. This is our second time attending spring training. We enjoy it and grow closer given our shared interest.

I received a column published March 4 by child psychiatrist Dr. Michael Jellinek on "Kids and Self-Esteem," and I have been thinking about the topic ever since. Andrew is in eleventh grade and has learning differences and challenges. He passed the state mandatory math exam for graduation and he is very pleased. He missed the mandatory reading exam by a single point. He knows that next year he will pass the reading exam. He was honored for the highest grade in his math class. For a kid with few "accomplishments" during his academic career, each of these events has reinforced his self-esteem. Last year, Andrew came in second in a schoolwide spelling contest. This year he didn't study ahead of time and he went out of the spelling contest early. He has learned that effort is correlated to progress.

Andrew is a whiz at baseball statistics and team rosters. When at a game, many fans, overhearing the observations he makes to me, will ask Andrew questions about players and their situation. Andrew feels confident at the ballpark. He gets reinforcement from strangers about his knowledge. There is a familiarity about being at the ballpark, no matter the team or stadium. We both are knowledgeable fans and love attending. Andrew is a much louder and animated fan than me.

Dr. Robert Brooks has emphasized at CHADD conferences over the years the need for each of us to have and use our "islands of competence." As Andrew grows and matures, his islands of competence continue to expand. He is still very anxious, still socially awkward, still has learning challenges, still has major doubts. But as a father, it is so reassuring to see his growth, maturity, and increasing self-esteem. He's also seventeen. It is a feeling of great satisfaction.

May we always look for and build the strengths of our kids.


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