Something to be proud about
Look at the expression on his face! This is my son, Yonatan- 5 years old. He just lost his first tooth and he was BESIDE himself. He put his tooth in a bag and kept it safe in my room and must have checked it 20 times throughout the day to make sure it was still there. He couldn't get over the new gap in his mouth and this new rite of passage. Now, he is like his big brother and sister and he can't wait to lose the next one.
What stood out for me during this experience was his beaming PRIDE. You know that look in your child's face that expresses complete pride in a new accomplishment and/or achievement?
Pride is actually a pretty complex emotion requiring a good amount of self awareness (thus a big achievement for a child on the autism spectrum). It is a remarkable time when a parent of an autistic child shares with me that they witnessed their child's first 'proud face'- it just doesn't get better than that.
Feeling pride (and sharing that pride with you) helps your child develop confidence. This is an important experience to cultivate since it is the impetus for the desire to grow and learn more and generates an overall positive sense of self.
Here are 5 ways to help your child develop a sense of pride:
1.Be attentive to all achievements (even the seemingly small ones). Make it a point to notice all the steps along your child's development- did he try a new food today? Did he put on his pants for the first time or make a new sound/word?
2. Be attentive to all EFFORTS. Making an effort to do something that your child has not done before is also something to be proud about. Be aware of things your child is attempting (even if not yet achieved), like being willing to even sit on the toilet or smell a new food.
3. Celebrate your child. Point out in an excited and animated way what your child has just accomplished, such as "Hey, look at that- you just got your shoes by yourself!"
4. Model pride. Make it a point to celebrate any achievements your other children, or YOU make, such as "Wow- I never made this recipe before- I did a great job!" or "Hannah- look at how many times you jumped rope!"
5.Observe your child. As you notice your child developing and doing new things, notice his/her face. Is there a slight smile, a glimmer in his eye or any indication that your child is aware of that accomplishment? If so, share this moment with your child with hugs, cheers and celebrations. This will inspire him to want to SHARE his pride with you more- and this is simply priceless.
Take note that pride itself, not to mention the new skill that your child recently achieved, is an important developmental milestone in it of itself and something worth celebrating!