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Wrightslaw: Legal Developments & Cases 2015

Battling the Dark Cloud:
Helping Your Child Build Success
by Betsy Murdock, M.S.
Licensed Professional Counselor,
Certified Mediator

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As a parent, you know about the “dark cloud” that surrounds many children with learning or emotional problems. This is an area where you can be a powerful advocate for your child. There are strategies you can use to help your child build success, one step at a time.

Problem: Low Self-Esteem

People who work with special children often see only the negative. They may not see the whole child.

Doctors, psychologists, therapists, and other experts are concerned with what is WRONG with your child. Because they are specialists, they may only see these kids in terms of weaknesses, problems, or failures. Teachers and principals rarely call home to share good news. School reports and letters sent home generally focus on areas of concern.

Consequently, these kids may suffer from a lack of attention to what is RIGHT about them. As a result, they are more likely to have low self-esteem, low expectations for themselves, and to act out.

Parents need to be aware of the “dark cloud” that may surround a child with learning or emotional difficulties. This is an area where you can be a powerful advocate for your child.

Solution: Help Your Child Build Success Stories

You can draw attention to the things he or she does well. You can help your child create success stories. Look for special abilities, talents, or strengths. Enlist the school’s help to find opportunities for your child to succeed.

If, for instance, your child draws well, be sure that art class is included in his or her schedule. If singing is a passion, find a choral group for your child to join.

Yes, it may be hard to find time. Your child may already have therapy sessions, tutoring, visits to the doctor, and so on.

Yet finding opportunities for success needs to be high on the to-do list. These opportunities for success will pay off as your child develops healthy self-esteem. This is crucial for children who learned early in life that they can’t do anything right!

Problem: Taking Away Good Things

Typically, when grades drop or kids misbehave, they have one or more activities taken away. These are usually things the child enjoys or does well. Some examples are art, music, sports, recess, or free computer time.

This strategy robs your child of chances for success and feeling good about himself.

Solution: Get Help For Problems

Try to avoid taking away the “positives” in your child’s schedule. Instead, find help for the problem areas.

Schedule additional time for study or practice, at home or at school. Ask about tutoring.

Read a good book or two about behavior management. Remember to notice and reward good behaviors, and try to give less attention to bad behaviors. Attention rewards behavior, whether it is good or bad.

As you find ways to help your kids feel good about themselves, you can have a powerful influence on how children view themselves. You can influence how others see your child, too.

Betsy Murdock, M.S., L.P.C.

Betsy Murdock is the Director of Education and Training at Harbor House Law Press, Inc.  She also serves as Managing Editor of The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, published by Harbor House. 

Betsy is a psychotherapist who has worked extensively in private practice and in the public schools. As a K-12 Guidance Counselor and School Psychologist, Betsy served on Eligibility and IEP committees, and has also done psycho-educational testing and triennial special education evaluations.

Betsy is a Certified Virginia Supreme Court Mediator. She provides private and court-appointed mediations for the Juvenile & Domestic Relations courts across eastern Virginia.

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Created: 02/22/06
Revised: 00/00/06


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