Tuesday, December 17, 2013

‘Building Resilience’: Importance of Building Competence

How does this thing work?
How does this thing work? (Photo credit: Thingo)
by Teri Andrews Rinne, Tahoe Daily Tribune: http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/northshore/nnews/8523533-113/competence-child-skills-building 

Teri Andrews Rinne is the children’s services librarian at the Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave., Truckee. Call 530-582-7846 or visit www.mynevadacounty.com/library.

This is the fourth installment in a series based upon the book “Building Resilience in Children and Teens.” Find part one here, part two here and part three here.

Kenneth Ginsburg argues that competence is the first of the 7 Crucial Cs is the bedrock or foundation of resilience. Without genuine competence, it is unlikely that the other 6 Cs could be developed.

Competence is the ability or know how to handle situations effectively. It’s not a vague feeling or hunch that “I can do this.” Competence is acquired through actual experience. 

Children can’t become competent without first developing a set of skills that allows them to trust their judgments, make responsible choices and face difficult situations.

How can parents or other involved adults foster competence? According to Ginsburg, the first thing we need to get out of the way and realize that normal child development occurs because children are wired to build new knowledge and skills from each experience.   

Second, we need to understand that play is one of the major jobs of childhood. We must allow plenty of time for free child-driven play, the most effective type of play for children to discover their competence in the world.

Third, competence is enhanced or hindered by the way we communicate and interact with children. New skills and abilities are reinforced when adults praise and notice them. If criticism is given harshly it can undermine a child’s ability to gain competence.

When criticism is offered as constructive, targeted feedback, it can enhance growing competence. We should also avoid lecturing mode as much as possible. Though our advice is offered with good intentions, it can undermines children’s growing competence.

We need to help them develop solutions for themselves, steering them toward making their own wise, safe decisions in the face of peer pressure.

Fourth, If we are to prepare children to thrive in the future, we must think beyond grades and extra-curriculars as the only way to measure authentic success. Instead, we need to value tenacity, love of learning, and creativity.

In thinking about your children’s competence and how to fortify it, ask yourself:

- Do I help my children focus on their strengths and build on them?    
- Do I notice what they do well or do I focus on their mistakes?
- When I need to point out a mistake, am I clear and focused or do I communicate that I believe they always mess up?    
- Do I help them recognize what they have going for themselves?    
- Am I helping them build the educational, social, and stress‐reduction skills necessary to make them competent in the real world?   
- Do I communicate in a way that empowers my children to make their own decisions or do I undermine their sense of competence by giving them information in ways they can’t grasp? In other words, do I lecture them or do I facilitate their thinking?   
- Do I let them make safe mistakes so they have the opportunity to right themselves or do I try to protect them from every trip and fall?   
- As I try to protect him, does my interference mistakenly send the message, “I don’t think you can handle this?”   
- If I have more than one child, do I recognize the competencies of each without comparison to siblings?
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