I was recently hired to work closely with a young dude named Joseph -- an 11 year old pre-teen who has a diagnosis of ADHD and Dyslexia. While the dyslexia
makes it difficult to function at school, ADHD has definitely made him a handful at home. To deal with this, I was hired to help Joseph with his homework,
and to take him out to expend his energy in a positive and active way. A few weeks ago, during one of our homework sessions at a local Second Cup coffee
shop, Joseph told me, in a burst of frustration, that this work was far too difficult considering he is "retarded".
I was shocked! I have literally spent the last few years teaching people to stop using the word "retarded" to describe anything. Yet the kid I work with
who has special needs was labelling himself with that very term. What was I to do as a practitioner, friend and coach?
I felt unsettled and spent the rest of the evening mulling over the conversation. The one thing that kept coming back to me was that people find evidence to support their beliefs, which then translates into their behaviors and actions. It
occurred to me that how I approach this issue with Joseph could influence him in a very powerful way.
The following Sunday, I took Joseph to play Laser Tag, and I kept thinking about how to bring up our previous conversation. While we were waiting in line,
the facilitator, who noticed that there were a bunch of kids waiting to get the game started, decided to engage the kids in a game called Zip-Zop.
Here's how it works. When the facilitator says "ZIP!" the participants must lift their hands. Similarly, when the facilitator says "ZOP!" the participants
must lower their hands. The facilitator may also trick the participants by saying "ZIP!" and then confusing everyone by lowering his hands. Similarly, he
may say "ZOP!" and raise his hands to confuse everyone.
Joseph was super pumped as he is very energetic and active. The game began, and he noticed that the kids were dropping like flies based on the trickery of
the facilitator. To avoid getting tricked, Joseph shut his eyes so he could focus on the words and not get thrown off by the facilitator's arm motions. He
won the activity with his eyes closed. WHAT A CHAMP! He even won a free game of laser tag!!
On the way home, I asked Joseph how he came up with his strategy, and he explained that he did not want to get tricked like all the other kids. I told him
that it was extremely intelligent to do that, and it is that kind of smart thinking that will lead him to all kinds of great success. We
then brainstormed about all of the other places in his life where this kind of strategy and strength can be useful to him. Since then I have yet to hear
Joseph call himself stupid.
The lesson here? Always point out the strengths of others; in your relationships, friendships, partnerships and especially with kids. People inherently
find evidence to support their beliefs, and that level of influence is doubled in children and youth.
Negative beliefs can directly impact the way people interact with the world around them. What a parent or role model does or says is evidence to a person
of any age, and results in that person's decision to support or dismiss a belief. Acknowledging other people's actions demonstrates that they are
appreciated. Appreciating someone goes a long way. It's often the greatest gift one can bestow on another. The results are unbelievable. What You Focus on Grows.