Resilience is a Transferable Skill

From a young age, Jim Jones struggled with learning.

It affected both his self-esteem and his grades. To fit in better, he wanted to do things other kids couldn’t.

So Jim learned how to twirl a basketball. After a while, he mastered it. He started with one basketball, then two, and by tenth grade he could spin five basketballs.

His peers loved it. At sixteen years old, he received a call from the Cleveland Cavaliers inviting him to perform at half-time. He did ten performances.

Although Jim started his senior year with only a second grade reading level, his newfound confidence helped him break through barriers. With hard work, he increased his GPA and Bowling Green accepted him. He later became the Outstanding Graduating Senior in their College of Business.

Today, Jim travels as a motivational speaker and teaches about overcoming learning barriers. 

The Barriers Facing Struggling Learners

Jim Jones succeeded with perseverance and a committed support team.

Many children today can relate to his early struggles as they wrestle with assignments and fall further behind. Every day seems like a mountain to climb because:

  • Homework feels impossible to finish
  • Instructions are hard to remember
  • They have to work harder than others
  • They feel inferior or humiliated when having to do anything in class
  • They’re exhausted when school ends

Struggling learners face barriers unknown to others. This often results in discouragement, since they’re confused why their peers seem to handle work easily.

In the meantime, parents sometimes scold them and teachers lecture them. Even when offered incentives or consequences, extra effort never seems enough. 

Using Strengths to Build Confidence

Over the years, research reveals an interesting fact: just as much or more progress happens by working on strengths rather than only trying to fix weaknesses.

Discovering a child’s strengths offers one of the most powerful ways to build their confidence. When educators tap into a child’s passions (music, sports, hobbies) and develop them, the student experiences a rush of accomplishment. With this newfound resilience, they can push through setbacks.

When a child possesses a skill that others don’t, much like Jim Jones’s basketball ability, it can create pathways for tenacity and easier social interaction. 

Affirming Value In and Out of School

Oftentimes you know your child’s strengths, hobbies, what pleases them.  Something you can build on.  Think beyond homework assignments and reading, by asking your child to share personal stories. Questions can include:

  • When are you most proud of yourself?
  • What’s the best way you can help someone?
  • What is one thing you do that makes you the happiest?

A child’s answers to these questions often reveal their strengths. Once identified, show them the connection with how these abilities bring value to their life and others, especially outside of the classroom.

Any pursuit that your child values and does well should be seen as mission critical to future academic success. And so it merits time, and arguably has more value than homework assignments which can be all-consuming for struggling learners, difficult to complete and therefore of questionable value in your child’s journey to learning success.

Meanwhile, a hobby or skill where your child feels good about herself, where she will push through setbacks in learning new aspects, where she sees that when she does that, when she is resilient, skills can be mastered.

This resilience is then transferable. If your child does not see it, point it out to him.  Look how many times you tried to do that before you figured it out, but in the end you did.  That hard work was worth it.

Using Strengths to Nurture Weaknesses

Here is where strengths can be so powerful.  There are two famous examples here:

  1. A love of music to help reading
  2. A love of sport to build social skills

If your child loves music, but struggles with reading, singing lessons or being in a choir is a great way to use a strength to help a weakness.  Reading words while singing has a pace to it, and requires automaticity – the singer needs to focus on the notes and the tempo, and so reading has to become more automatic, in the background. Automaticity is the key to reading success.

Many children are shy and/or struggle in social situations. Much of this is based on a real world problem, an inability to keep up with conversations of peers, especially in noisy places like school playgrounds. These auditory processing delays are at the heart of most learning difficulties.  However, if your child doing something he loves, and he is confident that his skill level matches his peers, he will have the confidence to ask his peers to repeat what they said, to participate.

There are countless ways to marry up a strength to a weakness.  Here is a helpful helpful list of strengths you can use as an idea prompter.

The Power of Affirmation

Effective strengths-based learning includes coaching a child to believe in their own potential. This begins with how you communicate.

Much more than a pop psychology fad, positive affirmation causes a shift in the brain of a struggling learner. Language is powerful. Sometimes even a subtle shift in words creates a new way of how students view themselves.

Build a culture of “Yes” and “You Can” and “You Are A Good Worker.” Children will notice the difference and start to accept a positive attitude toward learning. When you banish the language of “No” and “You Can’t,” it fosters confidence in children and encouragement from their peers.

Often, students focus on those around them, thinking others are smarter, faster, or more talented. You’d hope your child’s teacher will her your child understand they are special — they are enough — and need only to compete with themselves. With daily affirmations by you and your child’s teacher, a child’s mindset changes to possibility.

Ongoing affirmation helps reduce their stress, improve mood, and it encourages perseverance.  This is a called a strengths-based learning model, and it is helping a generation of learners rise up and share their stories of overcoming.

And somewhere, Jim Jones will be proud.

About Gemm Learning

At Gemm Learning, we work on bolstering confidence and resilience by working on the other side of your child’s learning difficulties. Our software-based service tackles the root causes of reading and learning delays.

It uses neuroscience principles to accelerate learning. We’ve already helped over three million children and adults.