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Work Projects With Dad Give Confidence: Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids

By Sylvia Rimm

Q.My son is the oldest of six children, ranging from nine months to 10 years of age. In school and at home, he's an underachiever. He's irresponsible (forgets books and loses homework instructions). He's not able to complete tasks without my hovering over him. He doesn't like to do anything except play Legos and watch TV. Seeing him waste so much time is devastating. He's a terrible role model and does silly things that cause a lot of sibling rivalry. My 9-year-old daughter is the opposite. The contrast is obvious, and his self-esteem really suffers. As parents, we've tried to find things that might interest him, but to no avail. I know he feels inadequate. My husband coaches hockey and baseball to show our support. I encourage reading with frequent trips to the library and the science museum. What more can I do?

A.Your son is, undoubtedly, suffering related to his sister's success in the family, but may also feel less important compared to the other four children who must take a great deal of your time. Testing by a school or private psychologist could give you better insight into his strengths and weaknesses. His interest in building with Legos suggests that he may have strong spatial skills, and if he does, academically, math and science are good fits in terms of interests. Legos are an excellent challenge for a child with good spatial skills. As to his television watching, you might notice if any particular programs suggest positive interests that you could capitalize on. It's also important to put limits on his screen time so that he busies himself with other activities.

As the oldest son, the biggest help to his self-esteem could come if his dad includes him on some work projects that are too complex for his younger siblings. Father/son projects offer great opportunities for building confidence and teaching a work ethic.

It's possible that the testing by a psychologist could reveal a learning disability, which could be directly related to his feelings of inadequacy. Beyond the testing, if your son continues both underachieving and feeling inadequate, arrange further work with a psychologist to discover other issues that may be affecting him.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. .

Categories: School-Age, Children,

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