by Dr Angel Adams and Dr Patricia Papciak
If you treat a person as he is, he will remain as he is. If you treat him for what he could be, he will become what he could be.
Walking in My Grandfather’s Footsteps
Do you remember who it was that dramatically changed your views and sent you in a different direction on your inspired journey? Thinking back there may have been one or two people or a handful, if you are lucky, who changed your life. Perhaps it started in childhood when someone took an interest in you and uplifted you in a way that it made a huge difference in how you viewed yourself and your own potential. In fact, that person believed in you when no one else ever thought of doing so. This had a life changing knock-on effect which set off an astounding chain of events, perhaps influencing you to discover your particular career path or life purpose.
A parent, a teacher, a counsellor, or a friend showed an act of kindness to you or said something that made a light bulb go off in your mind. Your thinking processes changed from that point on and you began to see things from a totally different perspective. Perhaps an art teacher took great notice of a special talent you had. Consequently you began to cultivate a new respect for your creative endeavours. You dedicated more time and energy to it because you felt proud that such a knowledgeable person had noticed your effort and ability. As a result you became increasingly skilled as an artist.
Frequently children will respond better academically when they feel their teacher likes, encourages and understands them. They will receive their best grades or marks in that teacher’s class even in subjects they dislike because they want to please that special someone who made them shine in a public way, and treated them respectfully, despite whether they have problems or not.
Temple Grandin is a well known scientist who has high-functioning autism. She has a doctorate in Animal Science and is a Professor at Colorado State University. She states that one of the most important people in her life was Mr Carlock, her science teacher. In school, Temple was teased mercilessly by some of her classmates; however, Mr Carlock gave her encouragement and motivation. Temple states that the “only refuge away from teasing was Mrs Carlock’s science lab and horseback riding”. She recounts how Mr Carlock directed her fixations into studying science. Whilst the mental health professionals in her life tried to get rid of her cattle-chute fixation, her science teacher supported her in her pursuits and her “obsession” ended up being the basis of her lucrative entire career. The majority of the cattle in America are now handled in an ethical and compassionate way before they go to slaughter in equipment that she designed. Watch this amazing video clip in which she credits her science teacher.
Something happens in our brain that changes our view when we are complimented about what we are doing. It also depends on the way we accept these compliments and whether we stay open to allowing them to not only change our direction, but to change the way we feel about ourselves. Our self-esteem can be boosted by the thought that we have talent(s) that can be used to contribute to the world. Self-esteem used to be a concept that was merely a psychological jargon, but currently, neuroscience has confirmed that it is a function of brain structure. Addressing the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Cheryl Power presented research on the child’s developing brain that is associated with the self-esteem centres in the brain.
Within a growing child’s brain stem is an evolutionarily-ancient structure called the locus corelueus, which is strongly activated by positive relationship connections. This arousal triggers a chemical called norepinephrine, which is released into the blood as a hormone and into the brain as a neurotransmitter washing over the brain and heightening its attention. When this happens, events and thoughts are most likely to become fixed in memory. These natural endorphins are stimulated by memories and are crucial because they enable a child to build a strong, healthy sense of self and form lasting concepts of self worth. A child will perceive that he/she is fun to be with, is able to love, and is worthy of being loved by others. Furthermore, that child can develop the social areas of the brain.
It is important to focus on your children’s strengths, not their limitations and encourage their work efforts. This will help them to envision themselves with pride and dignity and your children are more likely to grow up with a healthy image of themselves as their sense of self becomes more solid. In this way they will not feel damaged by shame when someone says something derogatory about them or their efforts. That is why all those adults who are in a position of influencing youngsters and young adults can either help or harm them. Children who have lived through trauma and abuse can become resilient if even just one single person showed kindness and bonded with them positively.
David Beckham, one of the most successful football athletes, grew up in a modest Essex setting. His parents were passionate Manchester United supporters and his father coached him from a young age and totally believed in him. This instilled in him a sense of determination and vision. As a child he was once rejected for a placement in the Junior English league because he was considered to be ‘too small’. His former trainer, Sir Alex Ferguson said that he “practised with a discipline to achieve an accuracy that other players wouldn’t care about.”
Alonzo Mourning is an American NBA all-star who gives credit to a person that touched his life: his former foster mother, Mrs Fannie Threet, who he moved in with at the age of 12 years old. He remained with her for 8 years until he went on to Georgetown. Alonzo states that “Fannie guided me every step of the way. Her message was always: ‘You can do it’! She was always there when I needed somebody to talk to and lean on. She gave me an opportunity to grow.”
Alonzo was relentlessly teased because of his height (6’ 9” when he was 15) and because he was clumsy. But Fannie helped him to develop an unstoppable attitude toward being successful. He says the main lesson he learned from his foster mother is the importance of giving. “You can have an impact not just through money, but also through giving love and comfort to kids. I know a little love went a long way with me.”
Next week we will look specifically at how to help motivate your children or young people to follow their aspirations so that they can be the best they can be in whatever they choose. We will also offer some tips for building their self-esteem as well as simple everyday actions that inspire them to do more for the world.
Look forward to motivating you next Monday!
If this article has been helpful to you, or if you wish to share your own insights, please post a comment below: