I saw two interesting posts this week that made me think a lot about my views on the subjects raised in them. One was The Power of Positive Talk on Teach Mama and another was Just For Fun on Joyful Learner. Both of them to some degree deal with labeling our children, and how those labels affect their behavior now and in the future. They also led to some interesting discussions between me and my husband about how we interact with our daughter and what we can improve in the future.
We both come from the cultures where the whole “positive thinking” approach is not regarded as highly as here in US. Have you read any of Russian classic literature that had any sort of happy end? Come to think of it, the Germans are not famous for their positive outlook either. The prevalent traditional thinking is, “life is hard and sometimes unfair – get used to it and work hard to succeed”. On the other hand, we both come from the families that gave us a lot of love, encouragement and support, and we certainly want to give the same to our daughter. It’s hard sometimes not to “overpraise” her, since she is a really good kid most of the time. But we also don’t want to create a “praise junkie”. My husband and I both agreed that I should praise her a bit less, and he needs to praise her a bit more, and we both need to focus more on praising her efforts in emerging skills – getting dressed on her own, entertaining herself, waiting for us to finish our conversation before asking questions, drawing and writing. We are both trying hard not to praise her for intelligence – this came from another article that we read some time ago – How Not To Talk to Your Kids. Anna has the same natural tendencies as the boy in this article – she divides everything into something that she is good at and into “No, I can’t do it, I am not so good at it”, and no amount of “You can do it” positive talk is going to work on her when she is in her “can’t do it” mode. What works for us, at least some of the time, is giving her space, resources and time to try something on her own and let her experience her own satisfaction from her achievement even if it’s not perfect from our point of view. We still have to get better at it, but I am beginning to see that that’s what a true positive thinking is about.
So how do you motivate your young children to try new things and what do you do when they don’t want to try something?