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Put Downs & Comebacks: I’m Just Stupid

When your child says “I’m just stupid”

A child can become consumed with his struggles with reading or learning, causing him to feel different from and less capable than many of his peers. This can erode his confidence to the point that he feels incompetent, passive, and reluctant to take risks in all aspects of his life. It is important to guide him towards his strengths and interests both in and out of school.

What your child may be trying to tell you

  • I feel different from the other kids.
  • I feel frustrated with a particular situation or person.
  • I rarely feel successful or competent.

How you can respond

  • Emphasize to your child that having learning difficulties does not mean he is unintelligent.
  • Try to find a specific source or pattern to this frustration.
  • Encourage him to nurture his strengths and interests.
  • Make a list with your child of all of the things he does well.

Encourage the child who struggles

Emphasize to your child that having learning difficulties does not mean he is unintelligent

By definition, a student must have average or above average intelligence in order to qualify as learning disabled. It is important for you and your child to understand what it means to have a learning disability or difficulty. Entrusting your child with information about his difficulties will empower him to discredit the voices of doubt that he encounters, including the voice inside his head. The better he understands the nature of his learning difference, the better prepared he will be to advocate for himself, learn to accommodate for his weaknesses, emphasize his strengths, and not limit his potential.

Try to find a specific source or pattern to this frustration

Does he exhibit this frustration both at home and at school? Is it with a particular subject or type of assignment? Does he seem to be down on himself the most when he’s with certain people? Ask him what he thinks is causing him to feel that way. If you can pinpoint a specific catalyst leading to the frustration, then it will be easier to help him think of solutions that will help.

Encourage him to nurture his strengths and interests

If your child is interested in art, for example, have him help you set up an art studio in a corner of the house, complete with exhibit space. If room is limited, he can decorate an art box as his portable studio. Mail his masterpieces to friends and family, “commission” him to create holiday decorations for the house. Schedule “craft night” once a month. Have him help you choose artwork of which you are both are particularly fond to frame for the walls at home and at your work. Try signing him up for an art class. Encourage him to make birthday gifts, cards, and wrapping paper, or take him to art museums, studios, and craft fairs. At school, talk with his teachers about incorporating your child’s interest in art meaningfully throughout the school day. The art teacher may welcome his help organizing supplies or even assisting with a younger class. He could help decorate a school bulletin board or include a piece of art to accompany his writing assignments.

Even if he is not especially artistic, encouraging him to pursue his interests will provide him with an opportunity to exercise his independence, develop his own identity, work at something in which he is interested and feels successful, allow him to become an “expert” about a particular subject, and give him the chance to surround himself, and hopefully make friendships with, like-minded people.

Make a list with your child of all of the things he does well

It can be easy for your child to focus on his weaknesses to the point that he believes it is what defines him. Help your child discover that he is a multi-faceted person who is much bigger than his learning difficulties.

Together, make a list of all of the things he does well. The more extensive and specific you can make it, the better. You can list that he is a good soccer player, but also list what it is about him that makes him a good player, such as being a strong kicker, a good sport, or a fast runner. And don’t forget small and even silly accomplishments, such as his ability to cross his eyes, to organize his Yu-Gi-Oh cards, or to ride a roller coaster five times in a row without feeling sick! Making the list will help your child to feel good about himself and to articulate what it is that makes him uniquely special and valuable. Post this list in a prominent place and add to it frequently.