Parenting Matters: What’s so special?

You probably read a great many articles about discipline and your child. Well, this is a different one.

You probably read a great many articles about discipline and your child. Well, this is a different one. Now we want you to think about how your child is special. I am not talking about how cute she is or how tall he is but what does he or she do that is really special?

Every child from birth on up is special in some way. It is the job of parents and maybe even grandparents to look for how a child is special. Think about the characteristics of the children you know and see if you can figure out what you believe makes him special. Is he thoughtful? Does he help his younger sister? Does he play with the dog on a regular basis? Is he a good reader? Does he help his grandmother go down the stairs? Does he have good handwriting?

Why is it important? Imagine growing up and never feeling special. Even if he isn’t special in lots of ways, he will like life much more if he feels he is special in some ways. Everyone can’t become an Olympic star or famous politician or big league baseball player. Not everyone can even make the honor roll at school. But everyone can feel special.

When your child does something special, tell him. Make a big deal out of it. Let him hear you telling Grandma about it. Bring it up at the dinner table.

If your child does special things regularly, you don’t have to go overboard. But if he struggles most of the time, then it is important to recognize what he has done. Recognizing and talking about this child’s special characteristics is especially important. If you have a child who has problems such as learning problems or health problems, you may be the one who struggles to figure out the characteristics he has that make him special — he does have them.

So look for the good in all of the important people in your life. If you are a teacher, make sure each student hears that they are doing well from time to time. If you are an employer, how frequently have you let your employees hear that you are pleased with their work?

If you are a music teacher, imagine how your pupil would feel if you never said she was doing well. Even let the waitress at your favorite restaurant hear you praise her service. You will get even better service next time. Your partner, your parents, your neighbor and your child all need to hear what they have done recently that is something that really pleases you; that makes them feel special.

Years ago we came upon a plate that had written on it “YOU ARE SPECIAL.” We bought the plate and used it with some regularity. One of the first recipients of the plate was our 9-year-old daughter. We saw her looking carefully both ways before she crossed the street. We told her how pleased we were that she was careful and she was given the privilege of using the special plate. Everyone needs a plate to remind us of our specialness from time to time.

We all appreciate being special. Think how pleased you are when someone tells you that you are a good mother or a good father. Being special to someone is important to all of us.



Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.