The Success Diary
Our brains are prone to miscalculate quantity.
That is why we need things like scales, calculators and measuring tapes. This is also true when measuring our capability at a specific skill. Ever heard a child say something like "I can't learn fractions?" This is a sign of miscalculating capability, since proficiency is not black or white. A child can learn simple fractions and have difficulty mastering more complex calculus. A better statement would be "I wish I was better at fractions." A child with a black or white perception of capability at a skill may be discouraged from even trying to learn that skill.
The Success Diary encourages a healthy perspective of capability.
Providing a child with a Success Diary is a good way to systematically reinforce a realistic sense of capability. Having a healthy perspective that is not split (successful vs. unsuccessful) allows a child to focus on bettering himself/herself. A child is not capable or incapable at specific skills but rather capable to a certain level and with consistent work he/she can become even more capable. The key to the technique is positive reinforcement. The Success Diary only counts when a child is successful at practicing a task thus encouraging self-confidence.
For this Tool You will Need:
- a pen
- a fun diary
Preparing a Child's Success Diary
Choose with the child three skills to work on (e.g. fractions; sitting; homework). Pick also one skill that you feel he/she is already quite capable at. Then pick four days of the week to monitor for success
Draw a table putting the chosen days of the week as the rows and the chosen skills as the columns. Put the table onto every other page for another 16 pages (16 weeks).
Ask the child to make his/her Success Diary personal (e.g. decorating the cover, writing his/her name, stickers/drawings on the empty pages, and so on).
Using a Child's Success Diary
At the end of the day, on each day that you monitor for success, draw a smiley in the table for every one of the skills practiced (e.g. if the child made an effort to do calculus exercised during the lesson then draw a smiley). The focus is effort and not the result. With effort and motivation results should come.
At the end of every week take a few minutes and flip back through the Success Diary with the child. The goal is to evaluate how many smileys he/she has earned without focusing on the times that the skill was not practiced. At that time encourage the child to further personalize his/her Success Diary.
After 16 weeks have passed, stop using this tool. If you feel that you still need it then take a two-month break and start again. If the child destroys his/her Success Diary before 16 weeks have passed then ask if he/she would like to start another one in a few days. If you suspect that the child has a learning disability then relay this to the parents or the school psychologist.