With hearts and flowers everywhere you look right now, thoughts of love aren’t far away.

But is love flowers and candy in red boxes?

And what about the heart? When we connect love to the heart, we don’t mean the literal heart organ that is so vital to life.

The heart we mean is a mysterious part of us that is also called will, spirit or mind. You might refer to someone’s heart to talk about their deep feelings and beliefs or their attitude and character. These feelings, beliefs, and attitudes will usually be positive, such as kindness and generosity.
And of course, matters of the heart have to do with love and relationships.

Have you ever stopped to consider that the heart is the brain behind the brain?

When the heart is functioning optimally, a cascade of chemicals, peptides, and hormones are released that facilitate brain functioning.

When a child is happy, when their heart is engaged, thinking and understanding become easier. Teaching how to give and receive love becomes important in light of this finding.

First, let’s teach our children how to like [or love] themselves and to develop a keen interest in their own well-being. An individual must have that sense of regard for themselves before it can be extrapolated toward others. With the child’s keen interest in themselves, the world becomes more interesting.

That same level of caring can be extended to people, places, and objects around them. Events and circumstances matter and, with the heart engaged, the brain can work to a higher level. When these children mature, their clear thinking can assist our communities in many ways. So, it would seem that love truly does make the world go ‘round.

But for unique learners, loving themselves is hard. They often feel ashamed and try to hide their challenges from parents, teachers, and peers. They are certain that their struggle to learn can only mean one thing; that they are inferior.

So how do you teach a child to love themselves in a whole-hearted, healthy way?

Here are three ways you can help your unique learner love themselves.

/h5>Separate your child’s value from their accomplishments.

We live in a performance-minded world. It is easy to get caught up in valuing your child’s “accomplishments”, especially when the other parents are bragging about their child’s grades or athletic prowess.

It is no wonder that our unique learner feels inferior; everything he or she cannot do is held up as the golden example of a worthy child.

This is never truer than at school and in the athletic arena. When it comes to kids, society tends to measure them in their ability as students or their ability as athletes, and preferably both. There are some exceptions to the athletes; these other paragons of success are the first chair in the orchestra or lead in the school play. They are the stars, which somehow makes them better.

So, if you aren’t an athlete or an accomplished musician, or a good student do you have anything to offer?

If you learn in different ways than the teacher teaches, are you a failure?

Logically the answer is obvious, but this isn’t as easy to answer in the secret reaches of a unique learner’s heart.

The truth is that your child, you, me; we are valuable just as we are. We have inherent worth.

Your first, and possibly hardest, job is to help your child understand this in a new way.

Look for and celebrate the good.

While this may seem like a contradiction to what I just said, it’s not. Children (all people really) gain confidence by doing real things. By helping your child see where they shine, you can help them develop self-confidence.

One of the things I firmly believe about unique learners is that because they think and see the world differently from the rest of us, they are gifts to humanity.

Don’t believe me?

How about the unique learner who was kicked out of school in the second grade because he was too stupid to learn? Thomas Edison went on to be one of the greatest inventors the world had seen.

Take the unique learner, an autistic young man, whose father was told that his son would never amount to anything because he just wasn’t that bright. He had speech difficulties and was at one point thought to be mentally handicapped. Perhaps Albert Einstein didn’t have time for remembering his books when he was busy thinking up his Theory of Relativity.

I am convinced the Leonardo Da ’Vinci was a unique learner; simply because his thinking was so radically different than others of his time. Winston Churchill also struggled academically and was often punished for his poor performance.

A more modern example is Jack Horner, the legendary paleontologist who discovered the western hemisphere’s first dinosaur eggs in the 1970s. Horner referred to school as extremely difficult and his progress in reading, writing, and mathematics as excruciatingly slow. Horner flunked out of college seven times and despite never earning a formal degree, he served as the scientific consultant for all four Jurassic Park films. He was 33 years old before he was diagnosed with dyslexia.

Unique learners? Yes. Failures? No.

Your unique learner has something special to offer too.

Develop a gratitude attitude.

This takes us back to where we started with the heart and the brain.

Since the heart is closely tied to the brain and is part of the cascade of chemicals and hormones that help the brain function properly, wouldn’t it make sense to do things that caused that cascade to occur?

This is easier than you think.

Scientific research in the field of positive and neuro-psychology has shown that the act of gratitude has tremendous health benefits and includes a shot of feel-good dopamine.

Gratitude makes you happier and improves your relationships. Creating a habit of gratitude orients your mind to look for the positive things in life.

Here is where it gets a bit harder. There had to be a catch, right? The catch is, it needs to start with you. You must drive the gratitude bus and you must make sure your unique learner gets on board.

Start incorporating little gratitude habits into your life. Keep a gratitude journal where you write down three things every day you are thankful for. Take a moment at the dinner table to allow each person to say what they are grateful for that day. This is also a good opportunity to say why you are grateful for each person. Everybody gets a turn.

Practice pay-it-forward and random acts of kindness with your child. Have them think back to when someone did something nice for them. Then have them think about something nice they could do for someone else, and then do it. (Helping others feels good and will improve their self-image too.)

With love on the mind, try using these three strategies in your unique learner’s daily life.

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Suzanne Cresswell Administrator
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