IMPROVING ACHIEVEMENT ORIENTATION

A positive competitive attitude when children achieve the best
that's is every parent's dream. And yet most of us have seen
a report card or heard a trumpeter's solo that falls short of what our
kid's can accomplish. Why can some boys and girls repeatedly pull
themselves to heights while other to equal or superior ability
cannot. Parents assume skill is pretty much determined by natural
ability; the student with the best IQ will get the best grades 
or the athlete with the most natural ability will surpass his 
classmates. Genes do count when determining performance to some 
extent, however, the real edge in achievement comes from mental 
attitude, character, and strategy. You can help build a winning 
mental attitude by: 

1. Find something to praise. A child who feels good about him or
herself will usually succeed. Nurturing self-esteem is a central
element of inspiring a child's peak performance and you can't start 
too early. It isn't easy to compliment your little leaguer who has 
just lost his game and struck out three times, but it's important to 
praise what psychologists call successive approximations. For example, 
you could say something like "You struck out, but you took a healthy 
cut. Keep swinging like that and soon you'll connect. This
will keep him trying even though he has falling short of the implied 
goal.

2. Rather than telling your child what he did wrong point out what he 
did right. If you keep telling your child there is something wrong with 
him, sooner or later, he'll believe it. Criticize the behavior, not
the child. Remember, the last moment of trial is what he'll remember.
Make sure he knows what you want him to do, not what you don't want
him to do. That thought should inspire positive action. 


3. Assess you child's strengths. Too often we want to mold our kids
into what we want them to be rather than listening to their own
opinions and self assessments. One of the first things you should ask
a child is "What do you like to do", What's fun for you", "What are
you good at". Children take pride in statements like; "I can throw a 
football far", "I like to draw", "I'm good at math". Sometimes these
statements are clues to abilities that you may not have been aware that 
your child had. It is extremely important; however, not to push your 
child into areas where he or she may not have ability to succeed and 
may make him feel like even more of a failure or not live up to your 
expectations. 

4. Encourage self praise. Talking positively to yourself about 
yourself reinforces a positive self image which, in turn, improves 
performance. Better performance causes more self praise which even 
further elevates the self-image which triggers further improvement. 
Negative self-talk, on the other hand, only perpetuates failure. 

5. Help a child to relax. Knowing how to relax is a key to peak
performance. When you are relaxed your mind is clearer and your body 
can function at its greatest efficiency. Performance Anxiety can 
interfere with your child's ability to succeed. This will reinforce 
his feelings that he "can't do it" and will weaken his drive and 
motivation. 

6. Teach your child to concentrate. Parents often complain that they
can't keep their child's attention for more than a few seconds. Yet,
the same child will play video games or watch TV for hours and seldom
lift their eyes from the screen. Eye contact is a very important
factor. Try to help your child look at you when you are giving him or
her instructions or the teacher if he or she is in class. Ask your
child questions about what he or shy may be studying to force them to
concentrate and think about what they are currently doing.

7. Rehearse mentally. Most kids have very vivid imaginations and
they can easily visualize what you ask. Before a test, urge your child
to study hard to create a mental motion picture of the whole situation
of the test. Having him visualize the entire event from the instant
the class bell rings until students are told to set down their
pencils. This will help him work through test anxiety and after a
while the test will seem routine.

8. Remind your child of past success. A good report card posted near 
your daughter's mirror reminds her that she can do well and reinforces 
the urge to repeat her success. Add messages of encouragement. "You 
did it last year, you can do it this year". 

In general, there are no real short cuts to bringing your child 
to his best. It's a gradual process of support, encouragement, and 
hard work and those efforts will pay off not only in peak performance, 
but in closer, warmer relationships between parent and child. Many 
parents make the mistake of trying to gord their kids with bribes, 
threats, or fear. All of these fail. Your daughter may be delighted 
to receive a dollar for an A on her report card, but it's the 
recognition, not the money, that pleases her. And it's the feeling of 
accomplishment that will inspire future success.