Sample Family Night Lesson: Individual Confidence & Uniqueness
Ideas for Preschoolers
Teaching and establishing the fact that everyone is different.
The rock game: Blindfold the children and give them each a rock. (Use widely different sizes and shapes.) Have them feel the rocks very carefully, getting to know what their particular rocks are like. Then put the rocks in the center of the circle and take the blindfolds off. Let each child find his own rock. Teach the children that everything in nature is unique: No two rocks are the same, no two flowers, no two leaves. All people are different too. Some are good at one thing, some at another, but all are special.
Help children to see what their own unique gifts are – and that these gifts are as good as anyone else’s.
- The “one thing I like about you” game: Sit five or six children in a circle, with one in the middle. Let each child say something he likes about the one in the middle, such as “One thing I like about Tommy is that he can tie his own shoes.”
- Individual profile charts: Trace a profile from each child’s shadow on a poster. Then, under the profile, write in the eye color, hair color, sex, age, position in the family, and what the child is good at. Put the posters up on the wall and let each child take pride in his uniqueness.
- Game: “I can’t do this, but I can do this.” Seat the children in a circle and ask them to think of something they can’t do, or can’t do very well (they should not say it yet, but just think of it). Then ask them to think of something they can do well. Say, “Now let’s play a little game called ‘I can’t do this, but I can do this.’ I will take my turn first and then you can each take a turn.”
You start by saying something like, “I can’t whistle, but I can play the piano,” or “I can’t make very good pies, but I can make good bread.” Your statements must be true, of course.
Then ask each child to tell something he can’t and can do. If a child can’t think of anything, make suggestions about things you have observed that he can do well.
Discussion on uniqueness.
- Tell the children you are going to teach them a brand new word. “The word is unique. Can you say that? Say it again. Does anyone know what that word means?” They may guess, but it is not likely that anyone will know.
Explain that unique means “one of a kind.” If something is unique, nothing else is exactly like it. Give some examples (each snowflake, each tree, each kitten). They may be almost alike, but not exactly alike. Something about them is different.
Say, “Is there anyone else in the whole world who is exactly like you? (No.) Then you are unique. Let me hear you say, ‘I am unique.’ (I am unique.) Say it again. (I am unique.) What does that mean? (It means no one else is exactly like me.)
Then tell the children that that is what makes them so special and so important – because “you are the only one just like you.”
- Ask the children: “Which is best, brown eyes or blue eyes?” They will probably each name their own eye color. Tell them they are both just as good, but different. Ask which is best, boys or girls? Tall or short? Three year olds or four year olds? The answer is always the same: They are both just as good, only different.
Explain to the children that they are all alike in some ways: two arms, two legs, two eyes, one nose, and so on. They all like to belong. They all need love. There are many things they all like to do. None of them likes to be hurt or sad. Say, “We are alike in some ways, but we are also different in many ways. That’s what makes us special. Each one of you is special in your own way.”
Ideas for elementary age
Stories about uniqueness and talents.
- “Little Miss Different.” What kind of ice cream do you want?” said the teacher. “Chocolate,” said one boy. “Chocolate,” said all the other children except Mary. “What about you, Mary?” said the teacher. “Read me what kinds there are,” said Mary. The teacher read all the kinds on the chart in the ice-cream store. Mary chose “walnut blackberry ripple.”
Mary’s mom called her “Little Miss Different” because she liked to do things differently than do other people.
When the other little girls wore pants to school, Mary liked to wear a dress.
When everyone got to draw a snowman in school, Mary made hers with three squares instead of three circles like all the other children.
When everyone else in her family watched television, Mary liked to read a book.
When the other children went down the snowy hill on their sleds, Mary liked to put the hood up on her parka and slide down the hill on her back with her feet up in the air.
Mary liked to try new things. That’s why she was called Little Miss Different. Sometimes other children would try the same new things Mary tried, but Mary usually thought of them first. It was fun to be with Mary because she had good ideas that were different.
One warm, spring day Mary’s teacher took her class to the park. All the other children played on the swings and the monkey bars, but Mary was different. She took off her shoes to feel the nice, new grass on her feet. Soon some other children saw what fun she was having, so they took off their shoes and tried it. When they had sandwiches for lunch, instead of sitting down, Mary went over by the pond and threw some little pieces of crust in the water. Little fish came up and ate them. Pretty soon some of the other children came over to try the same thing. On the way back to school everybody wanted to sit by Mary because she always noticed interesting things through the window of the car when they were traveling.
When she got home that night, she told her mom what a fun day she had had. Her mom gave her a big hug and said, “I’m glad you are Little Miss Different.”
- “Pedro the Squirrel.” A whole town of squirrels lived in the trees at the top of the hill. It was a perfect place to live, with hollow trunks for houses, lovely branches and boughs for running and leaping, and plenty of sunshine. And it was far enough up the mountain that the wolves didn’t come past very often. The only problem was that the nut trees were quite far away. But that was all right, for every day in the autumn all the men and boy squirrels ran to the nut trees and filled up a big box with nuts. Then they dragged the box back to the trees at the top of the hill to be stored for winter.
All the boy squirrels except Pedro helped out. Pedro was the smallest squirrel, and his legs were too short to go all the way. He tried once, but he couldn’t pull hard enough to help very much. “Never you mind,” his father would say. “Some squirrels are fast and have long legs, and others are strong. Each one is good at something. You are good at thinking of new ideas.”
It was true. Pedro did have lots of ideas. He thought he would be an inventor when he grew up. But most of his friends thought it was better to be strong and to run fast than to be an inventor.
One day Pedro was thinking of new ideas, and he thought of the idea of putting wheels on the big box. Late that night he made two wheels and put them on the nut box. Sure enough, it was much easier to pull than before when it didn’t have wheels. In fact, Pedro could pull it all by himself. Pedro was excited, but he was so tired from thinking of the wheels that he fell asleep in the box.
The next morning all the strong squirrels grabbed the ropes to drag the box to the nut tree. (They didn’t even see Pedro asleep in the box.) How easily the box pulled along! Were they stronger? No – it was those round things on the bottom. Who put them there? What were they? All the excitement woke up Pedro. He popped up from the box and told the other squirrels about the wheels.
What a hero Pedro became! With the wheels, the squirrels could make six trips a day to the nut tree instead of just one. After that day, Pedro was never ashamed of being different or unique!
Family specialists. (To recognize and reinforce children’s individual talents and to provide a way for them to share and experience the higher dimension of learning that comes only in teaching.)
According to aptitude, designate each child to become the “family specialist” in a particular area (such as one for gymnastics, one for violin, one for ballet, one for computers, and so on). Arrange for professional lessons for each child in his specialty, provided that he agrees to come home from those lessons and teach other interested family members what he has learned.
Note: One of the most valuable ways for both parent and child to fulfill their potential (and possibly to cut down on transportation to and from all kinds of lessons) is for parents to teach their own children. Obviously, few parents are qualified to teach a ten year old to play the cello. But each parent has a vast store of knowledge to be rediscovered and passed on to the children. When we run out of knowledge or know-how, we can always resort to books written by experts.
Obvious, open, unconditional love. A child who feels an inalterable parental love has a built-in foundation for confidence. He knows that no failure, no mistake, will rob him of that love and family acceptance. Tell him of your consistent love. Always separate your anger or disappointment or criticism of the thing he has done from your unchanging love for him.
Know each child as an individual. You can’t help a child build confidence around his inherent gifts and talents unless you come to know what those gifts and talents are. Two ways to learn: (1) in private chats with the child, time spent together watching and appreciating; and (2) in organized time, spent as husband and wife discussing each child, sharing perceptions, taking notes, discovering together more about the personality and individual character of each child. In our family, this consists of simply getting together as husband and wife (perhaps while going out to dinner) and discussing each child individual, one at a time. We ask ourselves, “How is he doing physically? How is he doing mentally? Emotionally? Socially? Spiritually?” Then we proceed through each facet for each child. It is remarkable how much parents can learn from each other’s observations. (See “Five-Facet Review” idea from May 5.)
Genuine respect each child and his own gifts. Our children are human beings, deserving not only our love but our respect. With this thought in mind, sometimes it becomes a bit easier to (1) show an added measure of faith in them after any kind of failure; (2) discuss our own failures with them and tell them what we learned from each; (3) praise their accomplishments lavishly and honestly, particularly accomplishments in areas where we perceive special aptitude; and (4) never criticize or tear the children down personally. We should criticize instead the bad things they have done, making sure they still know our total love for them. Never criticize in public – “praise in public, correct in private.”
Independence, self-reliance, responsibility at an early age. Confidence and its joy tie directly into being able to do useful things. Each child should have a job in the family, for the family – particularly daily or weekly jobs – for which he is praised and made to feel very able and important, very much a key part of the family.
Another way to build responsibility is to let children make their own decisions whenever possible – what to wear, what to do on Saturday morning – and then to praise their judgment.
Family experts board. Each child has unique talents. The challenge is one of identifying them and reinforcing them. A useful tool is a “family experts board.” Rule off a large mounted sheet into sixteen four-inch squares. Within each square put a picture of a family member doing something he is good at. Talk about the things in which each child excels.
A child’s age doesn’t matter. Kids can be included on the family experts board when they are only six months old � a baby might be the family expert in several important categories: “noticing,” “waving bye-bye,” “making loud noises.” As children grow older, the board begins to change; the real gifts, those things that can breed the joy of individual uniqueness and confidence, begin to emerge and surface on the board. A five year old might have on her list “creative dance,” “playing the violin,” and “being friendly to strangers.” A four year old: “singing right on tune,” “sharing,” “skipping,” and “counting and doing sums.”
Children can draw in the board’s squares illustrations of each area of expertise, such as a girl playing the piano or a boy running. As parents and children focus regularly on the gifts that should be listed on the chart, they begin to identify and reinforce those qualities that give their children the lifetime gift of joy.
An exclusive club for each child. Nothing makes a child feel more special than to share something with a parent that none of the other children (or the other parent) are included in. We have four such clubs in our family; each has only two members – Daddy and one child. Saren and Daddy’s club is “The Literary Discussion Club.” (They discuss books in a very grown-up way.) Shawni and Daddy’s club is “The Brown Eyes Club.” (They are the only ones in the family who have brown eyes. Their club has a secret handshake and password.) Josh and Daddy’s is “The Train, Boat, Airplane, Race Car, and Go-Cart Club.” (The name is self-explanatory.) Saydi and Daddy’s is “The Smile Club.” (Saydi was only two when this club started, and smiling was what she did best.) There is a feeling of specialness, or uniqueness, of exclusivity, that makes children more aware of their individual worth.
Make a book about each child. Help each child to make a book about himself. You might use wallpaper samples for decorative covers. Suggested title: All About Me or I Am Special. Suggested pages:
- Child’s name, decorated with sparkles and colors.
- Profile or picture of child.
- Family information, such as number of brothers and sisters and child’s position in the family.
- Personal information – age, birth date, height, weight, eye color, hair color, best friend, favorite food, favorite color.
- “Who loves me” list, with the last entry reading, “I love me, too.”
- A hand print (made with finger paint or ink).
- A foot print.
- A painting by the child.
- “Favorite things” pictures (food, toys, activities) cut from magazines and pasted in.
- A list of things the child is good at.
Pin a badge on the child that says “I am John and I’m special.”
Help each child to be secure in his own uniqueness. Ask, “Who are you?” (The children respond with their self-perceptions – an artist, a tricycle rider, a dancer, a skipper.) “Who loves you?” (Teacher, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, the milkman.) The process builds a long list of reassurance and confidence.