Paul Torrance, author and writer best know for his research on creativity, asked a group of kids to think about the characteristics and traits of the "teachers who made a difference" in their lives. Torrance believed that these traits apply to parents, mentors and others who play a part in the lives of kids. His survey determined that "all of these special people":
Communicate through words and actions that the child, his or her beliefs, feelings and behaviors, are important.
Make it easy for kids to identify, express and accept their feelings.
Convey understanding and acceptance of their own feelings. Make it clear that they value the whole child, not just special abilities, behaviors or achievements.
Help kids to see their own special qualities, and express that they value these.
Allow and encourage kids to pursue special interests.
Set aside some focused time to be with the child.
Give encouragement and support for attempts, not just for successes.
Emphasize the value of cooperation, and are themselves models to show that working together works for everyone.