Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.
There is something about achieving your goals that motivates you like nothing else. Biologists tell us that a special hormone is released in your brain when you accomplish tasks. I believe this is the single most important experience that children need to be successful. Even in situations where some struggle is involved, when a child learns how to figure things out, they are destined for success.
My guys had a solid educational foundation. We read every night through most of elementary school. As a matter of fact this was a good behavior reward. I would encourage good behavior by increasing the number of books we would read at night. On good nights, we may read 8 books. When they were less cooperative, it might be just 2 books, but knowing they were diminishing their reading time made them straighten up. Sometimes I was so tired that I would doze off in the middle of the book and they would have to wake me up to hear the ending. Other times I could feel the sleep coming and I would try to skip pages only to be reminded that I missed something. I really enjoyed those times.
They attended a great preschool that taught phonics so they were all reading at four years old. We would spend time working through workbooks during the week and on the weekends. With our full schedules, we didn’t turn on the TV on school nights. On weekends they could watch TV after they did a few pages in their workbooks. On a few occasions, my oldest would express his dislike for having to do workbooks. This was a good opportunity for a nap, and then - back to the workbooks. This combination of public and homeschool support gave each of them a good foundation for success in school. I would use the standardized score results to hone in on the subjects we needed to work on. Anything worth having in life involves a test of some type. The key is to practice taking tests so when the time comes, you have the confidence because you know you are prepared. One day my oldest came home to tell me that he already knew how to do the long division his teacher taught that day. He told the teacher that he’d taught himself. This was one of the lessons we had covered a few weeks earlier. What a rascal! I am convinced that this was the basis for the confidence that he has today.
Whenever the guys were playing sports, in addition to the team practices we would practice at home. This was particularly true for baseball. We laugh when we talk about my attempt at helping them perfect catching a fly ball. I didn’t have strong arms back then so in order to get the ball high enough for them to practice tracking the ball, I had to launch it underhanded. It sort of looked like a bowling stroke and a dance movement all rolled into one. It is a great source of comedy now, but I would stack my guys’ ability to track a fly ball with any kid on the field. I may have mentioned that I was pretty aggressive when cheering for their teams. I always tried to yell things that were encouraging or instructional. One of my favorite things to yell was “confidence”. Knowing that we practiced, just like we did with the workbooks meant that they had a good idea what to do next. Sometimes we would practice situations just to get them comfortable in high pressure situations [two outs, bottom of the ninth, tied score, winning run on third, here’s the pitch]. Their typical response was “Ma, you are making me nervous” but when they got into a high pressure situation in the game they knew what to do. I find that they are good at making decisions now, even under pressure. This is one of the prime qualities you want a man to have.
All three of my guys graduated high school in the top 5% of their class. Wrestling with the workbooks was worth it.
P.S. Today is my oldest son’s birthday. He has always been a leader and as much as I enjoyed him as a child, I am really enjoying him as an adult. He remembers to send me flowers on special days and sometimes, just because. He was born in one of the historical New York snow storms. We took a cab to the hospital and I had to walk the last two blocks because the cab had a flat tire…and then they sent me home. It would be 12 hours of child-birthing the way nature intended it until he emerged. It was love at first sight. Happy birthday B!