Sunday, April 25, 2010

Apr21_Rose

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?

14 comments:

Mom and Kiddo said...

I've seen a lot of Chekhov in my day, and while it does have its amusing moments, it's no romp in the park! Have you read Alfie Kohn? He's an education specialist, but he wrote a book called "Unconditional Parenting" about how rewards and praise can undermine our children.

Ticia said...

Hmmmm...... what do we do? I think a lot of times it comes down to "you will try it because I said so," but other times we couch it as it's a fun thing to do.
I've found I have the most success with trying new foods if it's the first thing they eat.
In other ares just making it into an adventure is what makes it fun sometimes.

Pathfinder Mom said...

I try to reassure Tornado Boy that skills are built over time and that there are few things that will come naturally. I have to balance it because of his perfectionist tendencies. Writing was a bit of a struggle for us - it didn't come naturally. Now that he's gotten good at it, he'll erase and erase and erase. I'm trying to help him learn to accept that he's still learning and that he doesn't have to erase everything - that he'll naturally improve over time. I do use the analogy of sports since practice is so much more visible there. I try to make sure that I praise the effort whenever he tries something new - be it a skill or something like a new food.

Risa said...

I try to find out why they don't want to try the new thing, and give reassurances. I remind them of times they've tried new things and LOVED it--a new food, a ride at the amusement park, a new class or activity. I let them know it is only an experiment and that if they try and truly do not like it, they do not have to continue. My older child who was VERY reluctant to try new things when younger, suddenly, at age 7 blossomed into uber-curiosity about EVERYTHING. "Can I try karate? Let's go to Australia. I want to learn how to play piano, guitar, trumpet, drums, etc. What are you eating Mom? Can I try? (it was a veggie pakora)." IME, there is definitely an age component.

Joyful Learner said...

I also come from a very pessemistic culture...Korea was always being invaded on all sides. So I've learned to re-train my thinking. But what I did gain from my background is the value of hard work. When I was asked to describe myself in junior high at an interview, I said I was a hard worker. I want to pass on this to our daughter that what's important is the effort you put in. Carol Dweck did research on different kinds of praise. I think empty praise is no good because kids can see through it but I don't have a problem with kids believing they are smart, talented or capable as long as they know it doesn't happen magically. As for labeling, you don't have to let it limit you. Afterall, we label ourselves and everyone every time we make sense of the world! Remember research tends to focus on negative outcomes otherwise it wouldn't get much publicity. There are people who grew up thinking they are good artists or musicians because others have told them so and it has worked to their benefit! Basically, take everything with a grain of salt.

I second Alfie Kohn...he's very good but the message he sends is very challenging for many.

Joyful Learner said...

As for motivation...I introduce something. If she doesn't like it, she doesn't have to do it. I introduce it again another time and see what happens. I offer assistance if it's something that's more fun to do together like chores. Usually, that is motivation enough because she loves to help out. If it's a chore she can do all by herself, I tell her I'll check in on her and walk away. That gives her more control than if I nagged or hovered. Usually, it's done by the time I return. JC can be a perfectionist also so I tell her it's okay to make mistakes. I like to praise her effort or something new she's accomplished. Most of the time we turn things into a game since she loves games of all kind! All in all, I try to limit any negative messages we might be sending but it definitely takes work!

Debbie said...

Coming from a family where the attitude was always,"You can't...You won't..." All negatives, and realizing the lasting affect these negatives had on my self asteem, abilities to have the drive to push myself to achieve, I try very hard to keep negatives out of our home, that is not to say it doesn't happen. Yet at the same time I agree with one of the other comments that empty praise is just that empty. I disagree with the attitude that we should praise constantly for "good" behavior, with no consequences for "bad" behavior. I suppose I feel there has to be a balance. This balance may look different for each family. Kid's need to be praised, but they also need to know there are consequences.

How do I get Selena to try new things, this is not much of a problem in our home. She is always willing to try new things, even food, but she is very sure to let us know what she likes and dislikes.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

We try to lead by example. When we want the children to try something new, we do it with them - and hope our excitement will catch on.

Neither of us are very good at positive reinforcement - something we're trying to work on.

And, we try to focus on the "how could you do it?" sort of questions, when the children think they can't do something.

S said...

I also like Carol Dweck and Alfie Kohn. I've been trying to empathize with how hard something can be. Remembering how I feel when I am about to do something new, and sharing those feelings, can sometimes help my kids. I also try to focus on what we learn, even when we fail. The only way to truly fail is to never try at all.

Christy said...

Interesting.

Most of the time, we announce that we will be doing something new. I don't always present it as a choice because often my children will choose to not do whatever the new thing may be. Once they have done it, they are free to choose (for the most part; it may be that there is a certain time commitment before they can opt out) in the future.

Autumn said...

When it comes to a neutral ability (such as learning how to climb something or riding a bike) I've realized that Tommy only tries things and is motivated to succeed when it's his idea, so I've given up on the positive "You can do it!" talk with him. I'll just say something like, "You don't have to do it now. You can try it another time." and turn my back. Five minutes later, I'll spy him trying it and figuring it out.

If it's something else, like trying a new food or going to a new place, I put a positive spin on it, such as, "Oh, boy! We get to try______ tonight, isn't this fun?". Sounds totally silly, but it gets the boys excited about new things, instead of skeptical of them.

littlewondersdays said...

I've tried to think about this for the last day. We are definitely positive, glass pretty full people. When it comes to discipline I find myself thanking or acknowledging good behavior. Like today, I was on the phone and did you feel the earth stand still? That was because Little J was actually quiet and waited for me to finish my call. I found myself saying, "Thank you for being courteous while I was on the phone." I could have moved on with our day or simply said, “I noticed you were quiet while I was on the phone”, but we’ve been working on this issue. So, I guess I felt it was important to say more. I don't want to over praise or falsely praise either. It sure is a delicate balance.

littlewondersdays said...

I've tried to think about this for the last day. We are definitely positive, glass pretty full people. When it comes to discipline I find myself thanking or acknowledging good behavior. Like today, I was on the phone and did you feel the earth stand still? That was because Little J was actually quiet and waited for me to finish my call. I found myself saying, "Thank you for being courteous while I was on the phone." I could have moved on with our day or simply said, “I noticed you were quiet while I was on the phone”, but we’ve been working on this issue. So, I guess I felt it was important to say more. I don't want to over praise or falsely praise either. It sure is a delicate balance.

Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog said...

What a great post! I try to let the girls see me trying new things all the time. I think the best way to teach is by example.