“Why does my daughter beat herself up because her twin’s talent is in math and he can do it easily while she struggles. He constantly corrects her?” asked a mother of gifted children.
To answer this questions we need to do the following:
- Examine the power of beliefs formed at an early age.
- Examine our own beliefs.
- Help the children discover the origin of their beliefs.
- Reframe the belief to one that will help them succeed.
How They Form Beliefs
Whether children are gifted or not, they do tend to compare themselves to others. They observe what is going on around them and form beliefs based on how they see situations.
A three year old girl will watch her 6 year sister effortlessly climb the jungle gym ladder, and draw the conclusion that she is not good at climbing because it doesn’t appear as easy for her as it does for her sister. The 3 year old didn’t see her sister struggle at 3, She only sees the end result of three years of falling and practicing. So the 3 year old will unfairly judge her own abilities. Her truth becomes real to her and it doesn’t matter what we say. If the belief is strong enough it is hard to change.
In the case of the twin, she is forming a belief based on her brother’s comments and capability in math. Though they are twins, their strengths may lie in different areas. She shouldn’t be taught in the same way because her brain may process information in a different way. She might need a different approach that would unlock her natural math ability.
Many of the beliefs were created with an immature mind. The child’s belief is still held tightly and can affect everything in their lives until we help them unlock the truth behind the lie they are telling themselves.
According to Lion Goodman, the creator of the Clear Your Beliefs method, children form beliefs that allow them to survive. They do this at a very young age. Each child born into a family will observe their world and form protective beliefs that will help them receive the love and attention they need for survival. The challenge comes when the belief that served them at 2 doesn’t serve them later on.
If a child decides at age 4 that they can’t do math, it is somewhat of a survival method to give up and stop trying.
How Beliefs Affect What We See
The twin became hard on herself when she silently formed beliefs based on limited knowledge of what makes someone smart in math. This affects everything that happens in relationship to doing math problems. Everything she experiences will be filtered through that belief. Like the twin, every time the 3 year old tries something new that proves challenging, she further validates her initial belief. She can carry this belief throughout her lifetime and never achieve her potential. “I’m not good so why try?” I had one friend state, “I would have become a doctor, but I learned at an early age I couldn’t do math.”
Beliefs Filter Encouragement
If we try to convince them they really are capable by saying, “You can do it. I believe in you,” some children will work through it and see that they have to struggle a little before they succeed. For others, it may fall on deaf ears if the belief the children hold is stronger than the encouragement. They have a belief that will just discount any encouragement. Students have shared, “I know my mom says I can do this, but she is just trying to be nice. I know what she doesn’t know. I’m just not good at math.”
Examine Parent’s Beliefs
When children hear parents talk about how they were never good in math, they often take on the same belief.
If we explore the parents’ beliefs and when they were formed, they may discover that their belief was formed because of something a teacher said or how they observed themselves in the class.
Just like their children, they may not have had the type of instruction that would have unlocked the mystery of a subject to show them they really were capable. They may have formed an opinion based on incorrect information.
Ask yourself, “Was I taught by a person who learned differently than me?” “Did I compare myself to others who might have been older than me?” Did I expect everything to be easy?” “Did I need a more concrete form of instruction and not get it?” “Did someone tell me I’d never get it?” There are times when we believe those who have their own limiting beliefs. We need to examine if their beliefs unfairly resulted in one creating similar ones.
Once we have examined our own beliefs, we can then help our children unlock their’s.
Help them tap into their beliefs. The following steps are ones I have followed over the years to help children discover the beliefs that have held them back in different subjects or are behind their misbehaviors.
We may assume a lot about why they are feeling dejected, because they are not getting the math as easily as their siblings or peers. We really don’t know their belief or their truth unless we ask.
Using the following steps, be careful not to offer idea or opinions, and allow them to share their observations. Reserve all judgment and even if you disagree, do not contradict their belief. We see things from a adult’s perspective. They formed their belief’s from a child’s perspective.
- Have them sit in a comfortable chair or lay in their bed.
- Have them close their eyes and do some deep cleansing breaths.
- Once calm and relaxed, tell them you are going to ask a few questions and you want them to take as much time as they need to answer, (This can not be rushed. The more relaxed and comfortable they feel, the quicker the answer will appear).
- Begin with the first of the following questions. Then follow up with any of the other questions that are applicable or create ones that fit with their beliefs. “When did you know you weren’t good at math?” “How old were you?” “Where were you?” “What happened that made your feel that way?” “What about your observation was the indicator you weren’t capable?” Give them time to just relax and see what pops up in their mind.
- Once they share when, where, or why they formed the belief, guide them to see it from a different perspective. “Do you think it is fair of a three year old to run in a cross country race? Why? Do you think believing you were not smart was formed too early before your brain could be ready for the math you were being taught?” Validate that when something is hard it is not an indicator that the child is not smart. “Even Einstein struggled. He just had strategies for solving the challenges. Maybe you didn’t have he right strategies.”
- Then have them discuss the experience and help them see it from a different perspective. I find using the brain development readiness is very effective in shifting thinking. One can’t do what the brain is not ready for. One can’t learn in a way that is not friendly to their style of learning.
Examples of Observations
The observations I have heard have been very odd and at times it took all my self-control not to laugh or cry at their reasoning. Once we hear their beliefs, we can help them see how they formed an opinion too young to really know if they were capable or not, especially with math and reading.
Many children are introduced to concepts before their brains are developed adequately to be math or reading ready. Once they age and the brain develops, concepts that were once difficult will be become easier. Helping them see that they were taught something before their brains were ready has relieved a lot of children, so they would be willing to try to learn a past concept again in a different way.
If they say, “I’m like you. I’m not good at math,” it opens a door to explain how you formed that opinion and didn’t realize that you were wrong. Share what you discovered when you examines your own beliefs. Share when you formed your opinion. If it was in first grade class or in an algebra or geometry class, ask them if you were fair to yourself? I personally realized I had math aptitude in my 50’s when I was introduced to “Hands on Equations,” a visual approach to algebraic thinking. It teaches algebraic thinking in a way that 7 year olds can understand the abstract concept. Confess that you were wrong and that they just need to learn how to ask for help from their teachers. (Secret, those who love math may have a hard time helping children who struggle with it and can actually be the source of a poor belief).
Teaching third grade for 25 years, I have come across far too many students who decided at very young ages that math was not their thing, yet they had incredible math thinking. When asked what made them decide they weren’t good at math and when they decided it, I got some very enlightening answers.
“I knew in kindergarten when I couldn’t add 20 problems in five minutes.”
“I knew when I was four. I couldn’t understand the math problems my older brother could do.”
“I knew in preschool, because I couldn’t easily write my numbers.”
“It was in first grade and my teacher said, ‘I don’t know how you can be so smart in everything else and still struggle with math. You just need to practice more.'” (With
“When I couldn’t write my facts fast enough and my dad kept timing me. I got so frustrated, I knew I would never be good at math.”
If you need help with unlocking your children’s beliefs, reach out to me. It can change their worlds.
Please share this post with other parents and teachers who have students who might be plagued by beliefs they formed far too young. Beliefs are the silent subconscious blockers to success.