My kids are not the smartest and greatest at like, anything. And I’m sorry, yours aren’t either. Well I guess one of you has the smartest kid, but the rest of you don’t. And if you do happen to have the smartest kid and always tell them they are smart, you are creating a little piece of crying, spoiled shit. Literally as I’m writing this, my kid is naked sticking his butt in the air saying “look at me, mama!” … “Yep, good job, Camden. You’re a flippin’ genius.” False. Next time you are around parents, eavesdrop. “Gooooood jobbbbbb!! Honey, look at what Mikey just did! He connected the two pieces of the train track together, ALL BY HIMSELF! Let’s go celebrate tonight, go to P.F. Chang’, get one of those chocolate domes. They are gluten free, so much healthier. You little smarty pants!! Do you think we should sign him up for the gifted toddler program at school? I mean, I just don’t want him to fall behind.” Meanwhile, to your left, there is little Samantha pulling at your arm wanting you to smile. You smile back, trying to be polite. When you really want to say to her mother “listen, lady, my kids are on the other side of the room entertaining themselves for the first time in the history of this week and I don’t want to talk”, you instead have to say “oh, hiiiiiiiiii, aren’t you just the cutest thing.” Then, the mom replies “Oh yeah! This is Samantha. Sammmmy, say hiiiii to the lady!! Hiiiii!!! She just learned to walk, so early! 12 months, she just always seems to be ahead when it comes to anything athletic.” And the rambling continues until I hear my younger son crying because my older son grabbed something out of his hands and pushed him into a bookshelf.
I’m so guilty of this. Everything my children do, we praise around here. Hell, my kid wakes up in the morning and it’s a giant celebration. “Did you sleep gooooood???? Do you want milky??? Cheerios?? What do you want to watch on TV? You’re BREATHING! Good job, honey!!” OMG, and that’s just a basic routine.
WARNING: My serious side is about to come out.
I can’t help but be reminded of a little reading I did (back in the day, when I read) on the research conducted by Stanford University Psychologist Carol S. Dweck regarding the “power of a mindset.” For years, she studied the difference between a “growth mindset” versus a “fixed mindset.” )A summary on it can be found here: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/). But in my own words and thinking, I see parents all of the time, myself included, who tell their children how smart and great they are at everything. “OH MY GOSH! That drawing is SPECTACULAR! It’s a straight masterpiece. You are the next Picasso.” Although praising a child for their accomplishments is also very crucial to their social development (and let’s be real, we DO think everything they do is amazing. That’s what parents are supposed to feel), we as parents need to stress and praise not the final product as much as the work and effort it took to reach this final product. I certainly don’t have any answers to this and am working on it myself. But as a former high school math teacher, I saw the consequences start to unravel all of the time. Many students that had been labeled “smart” and “gifted” their whole lives enrolled in Honors Pre-Calculus. All of a sudden, they couldn’t merely rely on their inherent Einstein qualities. They couldn’t just sit in the classroom and leave with a complete understanding of the content. And on their first test day, they panicked when they couldn’t do the problems. They didn’t understand how to WORK for the understanding, how to WORK for the answers, as their whole lives, their “smart” quality carried them through. But unfortunately, you will eventually hit a glass ceiling and your “smart” mind can only truly get you so far. You need more than that, you need to love learning, you need to love the journey to success and understanding. This is the “growth mindset” which many parents don’t instill in their children’s personalities.
How to do this? Hmmm, fantastic question. Maybe we should start saying “hmm, that drawing sucks. You should stick to shoving legos up your nose. You are WAY better at that.” But for now, since I feel like comments like those are directly linked to drug abuse as adults, I will stick with “that’s a great drawing, I can tell you worked really hard on it and put forth a lot of effort.” This doesn’t come naturally to me at all, but I personally need to work on instilling a love of learning and exploring in my children as opposed to praising the end result. After all, if they don’t know how to work hard in life, their asses are going to be living with me when they are 30 years old. This shit needs to be worked on NOW.
What do you do to instill a good work ethic in your children at a young age?