Just last week, Tim was getting ready to leave for a work trip. As he was pulling his carry-on from the trunk and saying goodbye to our girls, he made a comment about being sad to leave them. Even before the words were out of his mouth, our eyes met and with that glance, he quickly dialed-up the happiness in his voice to end on a positive note. In that moment, our girls went from being sorry to see him go, to being happy and talking about his swift return.
It made me think about how we’re so conscious of how we talk to our children. And, since having had Orlagh and Iris, how to talk to our young girls. When I went to parent night for our five-year-old, Iris, I was intrigued and glad to learn that her kindergarten teacher is very careful with using the word “cute.” I asked her more about this. She says that early on, she became aware of how labeling language like this can impact the way people react to an individual.
With the kids in her kindergarten class, she says: “I try and be as specific as possible whenever I praise them. If they do a great job on an art project, I try to first praise their effort and then pinpoint something really concrete, like their ability to cut with a straight edge.”
She also says: “The dark side of praise is it can deter kids from being internally motivated to succeed. They learn that their job is to people-please, and that they need to work for a verbal ‘good job’ instead of working to achieve personal or academic goals.”
I thought this, too, was interesting and found this article about the importance of determination. Based on the work of author and researcher, Carol S. Dweck, the article focuses on how word choice can impact a child’s–or any person’s–desire to work to his or her potential. Being described as a “hard worker” versus being described as “smart” can really make a difference. The insight is that getting praise simply for intelligence is limiting, without realizing it takes hard work to succeed.
We’re definitely a culture of precise parenting. Personally, I remember when this book ruled our days and nights. With so many views on what we should and shouldn’t do based on research and a boatload of studies, it can feel overwhelming. I’m getting better at filing away what is new/tested/written about, and blending it with what works for us (for better or for worse!), what we learned from our own parents, and frankly, whatever gets us to the next day.