Friday, May 27, 2011

Discovering Your Child's "Mojo"

Those things that make one happy, activities that make one feel fulfilled and special- whatever brings light to one’s eyes- can be called a person’s “mojo”. The urban dictionary defines this new-fangled term as a person’s charm, talent and belief in oneself or that which sets someone apart from the rest. An integral aspect of parenting is finding and nurturing your child’s “spark”. What are the things that interest or intrigue him or her? What do you see as his/her talents, abilities or gifts? Identifying these personal strengths and encouraging their development helps to form a solid foundation for healthy a self-image. The earlier these are identified in a child, the sooner they can be nurtured. But how does a parent do this?

1. Name it. Observe your child. Notice how he interacts with others. Take note of what she is drawn toward. Listen to what your child says. See how he responds to the world around him. Then, say what you see. For example, a parent saw her son reach out to help a teammate who had fallen when trying to catch a ball. She took note of this and later said to him, “I saw how you helped Sam get up when he fell.” Another parent was aware that her son loved race cars. She used race cars to help him learn many skills he would need for school such as counting, sorting, color recognition and sequencing.

2. Claim It. Help your child to “own” the skill, interest or attribute. The first parent could say something like, “You are very caring and compassionate.” The second mother might say, “You really enjoy race cars. They are your favorite toys.” This reflection of the observed behavior helps the child to see him or herself in a positive, strength-based light.

3. Sustain It. Nurture or foster that strength by reinforcing it whenever you see it in action. If a child is recognized frequently for helping others or showing concern they will see themselves as compassionate. Providing opportunities for interests to develop helps the child to improve his or her skills and become stronger whether that is in sports, the arts or academics. Acknowledge children for their efforts, the process rather than the product. Accept that some areas of apparent strength will develop into bigger accomplishments while others will remain hobbies or interests.

It is also important to be aware that interests can die out and new ones take over during childhood. That is normal as the job of childhood is to explore. Talk with children about their pursuits and how you can help foster them. There is a huge pay-off to staying in tune with your child’s “mojo”: Research has found that children are more likely to do better in school and stay out of trouble during the teen years when they have a passion for something that “sparks” them.

For more information on how to determine your own strengths as well as your child’s, visit

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