lundi 30 janvier 2012

Teaching Kids

Fascinating article by Cathy Davidson called "What If We Stopped Teaching Kids What They Cannot Do?" (

This is, essentially, what I want to teach my kids: "to have the confidence to learn, to work at, to master, and to succeed against odds. In anything. At any time. At any age."

"What if we stopped teaching kids what they cannot do? I know that's not practical, that part of nurturing is limits, but other cultures shape by merit and reward rather than punishment and opposition. [...] not all cultures have "Terrible Twos." Think about it. Before a child walks, all we do is coax her forward, encouraging, you can do it, come on, you can, you can. And then suddenly the child gets her sturdy legs and starts to walk and everyone claps and cheers and is all smiles...and then she starts to run and it's "be careful, don't go there, stop, don't go so fast, don't don't don't..."
"Do I think we should automatically say everything a child does is grand and wonderful? Not at all. Kids see through false praise pretty quickly. Rather, instead of defeating them either with false praise or with rigid critique, I would rather set them challenges they can meet, and then, when they do, set them greater ones. Where the bar starts is not the issue. The issue is allowing kids the confidence to see they can get over the bar all on their own . . . even in those things that, by conventional standards, they are not "good" at. Learning is partly about passing the test. It's also about having the confidence to learn, to work at, to master, and to succeed against odds. In anything. At any time. At any age.

An interesting comment on the article:

That's depressing to think that children so quickly label themselves. As a parent, I know it's a challenge sometimes to focus on behavior rather than attributing it to identity, but it's important.

Have you read any work by Alan Kazdin? He was the 2008 president of the American Psychological Association and is director the Yale Parenting Center. He has some fascinating work on parenting that he bases on reams of actual evidence about children and their behaviors. One book is The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child. I hate the title because of how it labels the children and because its insights are useful for everyone.

Essentially, he argues that children crave attention, but don't differentiate between "good" and "bad" attention. So, one the parent's tasks is to seek out moments in which s/he can give positive feedback for good behavior rather than expecting that behavior to be the default. Think of how many parents respond to their children when they're acting (in the parent's eyes) poorly, yet make no comment when the child behaves well. Of course the child, being intuitively aware of cause-effect, will assume that the good behavior is not valued, while the bad behavior at least gets attention. Not that children think so consciously, but their emotions will certainly guide them that way.

2 commentaires:

  1. I came across this today and it made me think of this post so I thought I'd share.

    1. Thank you so much for linking to that article! I've read most, but not all of the books she mentions, but they all look like great recommendations. I actually just read Anne of Green Gables during our vacation two weeks ago. What a fun book! I wish I'd read it sooner... The main character is truly a delight.