Discipline is the teaching or training of an individual to accomplish a goal.The education of self-reliance, self-control and respect for themselves and others is taught to our children through discipline. Finding safe and humane ways of teaching our children is the difference between them offering respect and demanding respect. How to discipline children with respect Every parent should display and promote a rigid list of rules, and the consequences for breaking these rules. Parents should also have known tiers of severity for the consequences – from minor offenses to the most severe. By disclosing these rules and consequences in advance we are creating environments that are not going to sabotage our children with unknown or unexpected situations that result from their careless or overt acts. Then, enforce discipline with clarity, consistency and caring. Read more
I was recently babysitting my 9-year old nephew while his parents went out on date night. We mostly sat around his house playing cards and talking, but then he got to going about his good grades, and I was suddenly not very interested in talking with him anymore.
“Because I am smart.”
He bragged about the good grades he received during the school year, going on and on about why he was superior to his classmates. He had never been an especially arrogant boy, but something in him recently triggered this new-found confidence play.
I read Kristine Croto’s forward strategy on using the inverse power of praise on children, and it seems to be something of a revelation for what many of us already know – intelligence must be reinforced through discipline and work.
The classical concept has intelligence as a relatively stable characteristic of the individual – once clever then always clever. On the converse if you are not so bright, then there’s not too much you can do about it. But these are outdated theories because contemporary research suggests a different concept of intelligence. Dr. Carol Dweck is of the opinion that intelligence can be improved and is not a static concept. Dweck introduced the essential idea of mindsets – that people with a fixed mindset will fail; likewise, children and parents with an progressive philosophy of intelligence are going to improving their minds, thus increasing their IQ and talents.
But our children do not innately know the philosophy of intelligence extends into discipline (or maybe they’re too lazy to face up to this fact). Believing in talent and ability is not necessarily a bad thing, but children who have a fixed mindset do not think that learning new things can change or enhance their abilities.
Children with a fixed mindset:
- Students are afraid of failure and not looking smart enough – Failure for them is not an opportunity to learn – it is their worst enemy. They do not want to be regarded as anything but ‘clever’ or ‘intelligent’ or ‘talented.’ My nephew also fell into this trap because he thinks being smart is enough to achieve everything he needs.
- Children do everything to preserve their ‘clever’ image – The children will do anything to demonstrate success in intelligence, including cheating on a test to get a better grade. Students who have a fixed mindset are also vulnerable to criticism, and they cannot bear the questioning of their ability.
- Children make themselves blameless – Their environment keeps sending them messages that reinforce their fixation. “You are so intelligent,” or “You are very good at maths” are messages that reinforce the fixed mindset and offer no opportunity to develop or to get better.
Children with a progressive and dynamic philosophy of intelligence:
- Children believe in actively growing their intelligence – Children with a growth mindset do not worry too much about how smart they are or look in the moment, because they are fully aware they can become smarter and develop their abilities. The key to such improvements is hard work.
- Children with a growth mindset are brave enough to fail and do not pursue success at all costs – They are aware that the road to success is long and not necessarily easy. These children are willing to learn and, more importantly, willing to make considerable effort to get better at whatever they do or want to learn.
- Obstacles, failures and mistakes are necessary obstacles to ultimate success -A setback inspires them to double their efforts and keep going until they succeed. Children, who have a growth mindset are motivated, able to face adversity and show remarkable resilience, and ultimately achieve better results.
Teachers and parents can send different messages that acknowledge the effort and hard work of the child, thus reinforcing a progressive view on a child’s philosophy of intelligence. These messages imply that children can get better and develop their abilities when they try hard. When students receive such messages about their performance and abilities, they learn to profit from constructive criticism and do not ignore negative feedback.
It is important to see the point here – not all praise is good for a child. When adults praise children for their effort, they reinforce their motivation.
We had a long discussion with my nephew about the importance of effort underlying his philosophy of intelligence. He understood that being clever is just one thing, and without making an effort intelligence is not enough. The most successful people do not only have naturally perfect abilities; instead, they are hard-working and determined people who want to succeed. We used the life histories of some individuals he likes and values, such as Albert Einstein and Cristiano Ronaldo, to find some inspiration.
Seems like the smartest kids are the ones who need to be reminded of the importance for having a progressive view on their philosophy of intelligence. Perhaps that’s because the smartest adults are the ones who often make it look effortless.
My 6 year old is smart. Not brilliant, not a genius, but quick, bright, perceptive, sensitive, and intelligent. Her information retention is impressive, and her verbal skills often have people thinking that she’s a year or two older than she is. And I never, ever use the word smart in front of her if I can help it.
Everyone tells my daughter how smart she is. They think I’m incredibly bizarre when I tell them I’m using the inverse power of praise by not telling her. They say, “You’re so smart.” I respond, “Yes, she worked very hard on learning to read that story,” or, “I know, we’re so pleased that she has been practicing all the words to her favorite song.”
I first read about this approach in Po Bronson’s NurtureShock essay, “The inverse power of praise“, and I’ve talked about it a lot since then with my parenting friends. The idea is that by complimenting something that your child perceives as inherent (smartness) instead of something they can control (effort) you are setting him or her up to believe that if he or she can’t just DO something, he or she cannot LEARN to do it. Bronson argues that in the great self-esteem push of the 1980s many of us fell victim to this kind of thinking. The science at the time believed that praising kids would give them great self-esteem. Likewise, many of us were raised being told we were smart, creative, and generally awesome at everything. And then, many of us struggled to understand how to study in school because we lacked the ability to organize ourselves and complete long term projects. We often felt that if we weren’t immediately good at something there was no point in trying – we wouldn’t ever be good.
This is not what I want my daughter to learn, so I’ve turned to the inverse power of praise.
How the inverse power of praise works
My daughter is smart, sure. But I compliment how hard she works, when she solves problems on her own, or when she doesn’t give up when the going gets tough. I compliment things under her control, praise ways that she influences and changes her world for the better. I want her to learn that she is powerful. I want her to know that it is not something inherent or predetermined that creates her limitations, but her vision, and her effort.
- Identify specific behavior that is earned – Parents must learn to identify how a child got to a successful conclusion, then, tell that child what it is that helped him or her to succeed. For example: “Jimmy, I know you gave it a lot of effort and energy to clean your room. I really appreciate that!”
- Identify results – Parents must first identify the difference between earned rewards and rewards that come to the child without effort and energy expended. But don’t dwell on the results, because the point here is that parents need to recognize the effort and the behavior that has delivered the results. The inverse power of praise means that even if the painting was not that great, the fact that the child went through the discipline and effort to complete it is what’s important. For example: “I think your painting impressed grandma. What other great pictures can we draw for our friends?”
- Offer gratitude and encouragement – Parents should remember that a sincere “thank you” can be enough, and should be enough for children to feel praised and satisfied. There’s nothing in the world a child seeks more than a parent’s affirmation. For example: “Jimmy, I want to let you know how much daddy and I appreciate your emptying the dishwater earlier today. That meant a lot to us. Thank you!”
- Choose your praise with discrimination – Parents need to remember that everything children do is not to be rewarded. For instance, after a routine, such as emptying the dishwasher, has been established, then parents can get by with a simple “Thanks”. An overabundance of praise goes against the inverse power of praise, so use praise sparingly.
- Spread your praise to other children – When a parent gives praise to another child for good action while his or her own child watches provides the opportunity for that child to know that rewards are not reserved inside the family. The inverse power of praise demonstrates how discriminating praise can be doled out. For example: “Thank you for showing my son Jimmy how to throw away the broken pieces from our ceramics project. We appreciate the help in our household.”
Giving praise helps children feel appreciated and respected, but only praise that is sincere and specific. Most parents tend to spread praise about like they’re blessings to be bestowed freely upon our children. In fact, we need to ensure that our praise is given only occasionally and with maximum effect.
Excessive praise kills motivation in a child because self-esteem becomes misunderstood when it is not cultivated and nurtured properly. Nowhere is this point better illustrated than in the Greek myth of Narcissus, where someone who was so very sure of himself he sat pondering the glories of his own reflection in a lake until his vanity overwhelmed him and he died. Here’s a perfect example of the inverse power of praise.