Finding Their Strengths

Ways to determine your child’s best modes of learning and how to share them with schools

Everyone is not good at everything. There will always be someone smarter, faster, prettier, more successful. If that’s where the story ended, how depressing! The good news is that each child is good at something. Everyone has something they’re good at and that makes them special. No, this isn’t a feel-good, let’s-hug-it-out article. As a teacher, mom and professional working with families for two decades, this is my advice to parents of all kids, but especially those who struggle in school.

Back to school doesn’t have to be full of stress and struggles. Once kids realize they’re not good at school, though, that’s what can happen. Here are some ways to figure out your kids’ strengths and share them in meaningful ways with your student and his or her teachers.

What’s His Mode? We’ve heard parents say, “My child is very visual.” Aren’t we all? Actually, no. In today’s society of screens, many students do learn visually, but some learn better in other ways, like listening or doing. Donald Gardner termed these Multiple Intelligences in 1983. There are several online assessments which your child can take (or you can answer based on your experiences with your child) to help determine areas of strength. I took the quiz and it was very accurate for me. If you take the online quiz and find your strengths, the LiteracyNet site gives specific suggestions on how to use each strength in your studies.

It might seem obvious that many people are visual learners, so they can learn by looking at material, visualizing and watching others. Some areas of strength lend themselves to certain subjects, like a logical/mathematical learner is likely to be good at math. But how do hands-on learners excel in areas like language or writing? That can be more challenging, but not impossible.

Just like math problems often have multiple routes to the same correct solution, so does learning in general. Besides doing something physical while learning or practicing a skill (for the body/kinesthetic learner), there are many ways to engage each type of intelligence and grow skills. Like me, your child may have a few areas of obvious strength and some of obvious weakness (I am so not spatial). It’s fun to practice engaging all areas of learning, if only to show kids that we all have strength and can learn differently.

Who Do I Tell and How? Once you know your child is a musical or social learner, who needs to know and how should a parent share this info? First, if your child is in school, he or she is old enough to know what he or she is good at and where they need to work on growth. They may already have a feeling what kind of learner they are, but don’t know what to do about it.

Share this information with people who may be working with your child, like teachers, after-school caregivers, tutors, even grandparents who might help with homework. Just share the fact that you have discovered that little Billy is a great math brain, but needs to work on thinking about his own feelings or his own place in the big picture. These are “heady” topics and may need to be explained in simple terms to young kids.

As far as sharing with school, it’s something best shared a week or so into school, maybe in a note or phone call. The teacher should get a fair chance to meet and get a first impression of your child. You may find he or she has already identified your child’s strengths or weaknesses, too, and can use this understanding to help your child study at home, complete assignments, and even do household chores. Most importantly, make sure your child knows that no one way to learn is best and he or she can grow in areas of weakness and even help others improve their learning.

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