So, my fiance had sent me a video of seven year-olds in a school play, acting out a very violent scene from the movie “Scarface”. I posted it, but then removed it because I don’t want to give them more publicity than they deserve (none, IMO). Viral marketing video or not (thanks fitforakid), anybody who exposed these children to the themes in the movie should be arrested and sent to jail for child endangerment and for being a menace to society. Sick, sick, sick.
One of my favorite “nothing-to-do-with-Montessori-but-somehow-strangely-related-to-everything-I-do” blogs is the one written by Seth Godin. He combines all of my passions – entrepreneurship, organizational psychology, writing, and just plain common sense – into short blog posts that pack a punch.
He posted this video, and by the end of it I was standing on my chair, yelling “YESSSS!!!!!” I dare you to watch Taylor Mali recite his poem without getting at least a little excited and pumped up.
(Warning: there’s a crude, if common, finger gesture towards the end of the video. You’ve been warned.)
Mali also has a book, in case you’re interested.
“Much of what you think of as your personality actually grows out of your ‘mindset‘,” writes Dr. Carol Dweck in the introduction to Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. “Much of what may be preventing you from fulfilling your potential grows out of it.”
Dr. Dweck defines mindset as the way you view yourself and your life experiences. People with a fixed mindset believe their personality, intelligence, and talents are set in stone. They confirm these traits by evaluating their successes and defeats as pass or fail, win or lose. Fixed-mindset folks are very concerned with how others view them, so they surround themselves with people who will shore up their self-esteem (aka, suck-ups). Deficiencies are hidden and successes are trumpeted as confirmation of their beliefs.
On the other hand, people who adopt a growth mindset see their traits as the jumping-off point for development. They believe that effort is the key to growth and conclude that each individual’s potential can only be discovered and reached through dedication, passion, and training. The growth mindset is evident in people who learn from their mistakes, accept feedback, and stick with it when the going gets rough. They surround themselves with people who help them grow and discover their potential.
The first 167 pages of Mindset show how the two frames of mind can affect performance, outcomes, and enjoyment in the world of sports, business, and personal relationships. Dr. Dweck identifies the mindsets of famous (and not-so-famous) people and discusses the impact their viewpoints have on their lives and those of others. It’s an interesting read, but in the interest of brevity, I’m going to skip to chapter 7 to find out where mindsets originate and how to keep our children on the right track.
“You learned that so quickly! You’re so smart!”
“Look at that drawing! Martha, is he the next Picasso or what?”
“You’re so brilliant, you got an A without even studying!”
Apart from the exclamation points, what do these sentences from the book have in common? They are all supposedly encouraging messages that parents send to boost a child’s self-esteem. Have you heard similar phrases being used? Sure, we all have. Have you uttered them? Probably, and you had the best intentions in mind (I know I did!).
Unfortunately, here’s what the children hear:
If I don’t learn something quickly, I’m not smart.
I shouldn’t try drawing anything hard or they’ll see I’m no Picasso.
I’d better quit studying or they won’t think I’m brilliant.
How did Dr. Dweck figure out that this is what the children were hearing? She realized, while conducting seven research studies, that the children she had identified as having a fixed mindset were obsessed with these concepts. The children would take great pains to prove how smart and talented they were, and would rarely take the opportunity to learn something new during the research studies if it meant stepping outside their comfort zone. It stands to reason that the more we insist on praising these qualities, the more obsessed they will be with proving them true. The problem comes when they hit a bump in the road. To the fixed mindset children, “if success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb,” explains Dr. Dweck bluntly.
At this point you must be thinking: Well, if I can’t praise my child, then what do I say to let her know she’s on the right path? Dr. Dweck suggests that we praise “the growth-oriented process”. In other words, put into words what the child has accomplished through hard work, practice, and good strategies.
“I see you’ve been practicing your cursive handwriting. I can tell you are being very careful about spacing your words.”
“You chose many beautiful colors to make that picture. Can you tell me about it?”
“I noticed that you rolled the apron very neatly and cleaned the protector before putting it back on the tray! Thank you for keeping our materials tidy.”
If improper praise hurts children, improper criticism is the nail on the coffin of the fixed mindset. Sure, we all want to provide what the corporate world euphemistically calls “feedback for success”, but most of what we consider constructive criticism is heavy on judgment and light on support. In Mindset, we’re reminded that constructive means “helping the child to fix something, build a better product, or do a better job.” Therefore, our approach should be empathic and should open doors towards success. For example, if a child does a sloppy job on a test and misses a few questions, dad could ask: “Son, is there something that wasn’t clear to you when you prepared for the test? Do you want to go to the library to do some more research or would you feel more comfortable asking your teacher for additional review material?” Hitting the roof and grounding the boy is not the right approach here!
Dr. Dweck’s research also confirmed that the fixed mindset stems from a situation where parents place conditions on their approval. All parents want the best for their children, but what if your child’s idea of “best” is different from yours? Most people (including yours truly) have faced conditional approval from their parents in some aspect of their lives: academic, professional, social, or cultural. Most of the time, parents pass judgment unknowingly, thinking that they are setting up their child for a future of happiness by pushing for their own ideals of success.
In Mindset, we learn that some ideals are helpful while others can do terrible harm. Growth-mindset parents encourage their children to choose a career that will have a positive impact on society or remind them to choose a romantic partner that will respect and support them emotionally. Fixed-mindset parents will let their child know that they expect her to be a doctor or want him to marry a beauty queen. Which ideals work best? Those that provide respect for the child’s individuality, offer inspiration, and allow the child to slowly work towards the goal.
At the end of the chapter, we are challenged to “Grow Our Mindset”. Dr. Dweck suggests:
“Tomorrow, listen to what you are saying to your kids and tune in to the messages you’re sending. Are they messages that say: You have permanent traits and I am judging them? Or are they messages that say: You’re a developing person and I’m interested in your development?”
I’m ready to take this challenge!! Will you take it with me in the next few days and post your honest thoughts? (Anonymous comments are welcome!)
“Mindset” was written by Carol S. Dweck, Ph. D. and is published by Random House. Copyright 2006.
If your child ever complains that he/she doesn’t want to go to school (or if you ever start to grumble when stuck in traffic), just show them this (especially picture #2): http://news.ninemsn.com.au/glance/1030843/children-take-flying-fox-to-school
Thanks go out to my darling sister-in-law, for sending me this link.
Nowadays, we treat children in a way we normally reserve for guests and quadriplegics. We make their beds, cook their food, set their spot at the table, clean up their toys, spoon-feed them, wipe their bottoms, scrub their necks, and put on their shoes!!! The reason parents do this is because they love their children and want to give them all the comforts of life. But what message are we really sending? How do the children interpret our actions?
Wow, mom thinks I’m not capable of pulling some bedsheets, fixing myself a sandwich, carrying a plate and fork, cleaning up my toys, bringing a fork to my mouth, wiping my bottom, scrubbing my neck, and sticking my feet into shoes. If mom, who is all-knowing and perfect (you KNOW they see you this way), thinks I can’t do these things, then she MUST be right!
Years later, we’re frustrated because our children are “lazy” and “unmotivated”. Funny, they weren’t born that way!
Take a few minutes to read this most charming post about a five-year old girl whose home environment mirrors her Montessori school environment. While you’re reading, consider that this is a normal child with busy modern parents. It’s not too late to raise the bar for your children!!! Not only will they become more responsible, involved, and self-reliant, but you’ll have enough free time to go get a mani/pedi (or at least another cup of coffee). Enjoy!
Amazing book, not only for helping children, but for changing my own perspectives and thought patterns! Stay tuned for the book review and Montessori perspective this weekend!
About six months ago, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood got Disney to offer refunds for falsely advertising its Baby Einstein videos as “educational”. This small advocacy group – with a tiny staff and barely-there budget – worked within the Judge Baker children’s mental health center (affiliated with Harvard) and was making a huge difference in this age of consumerism and blatant marketing to children.
Well, guess who contacted Harvard just two weeks after the refund offers began? None other than your good friends at Disney, whose warm and fuzzy movies about princesses and puppy dogs hide a corporate greed matched only by the likes of Goldman Sachs and Enron (But, who would investigate Disney, right?).
And what did Disney demand? Oh, just that the advocacy group be kicked out of its Harvard offices, or else…
So, guess what Harvard and the Judge Baker center did? Yup, they immediately and unceremoniously forced the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood to vacate its offices. That’s right, THEY KICKED THEM OUT.
Wanna hear the kicker? Just a few days later, the director of the advocacy group was slotted to receive the “World of Children” award, given by the Judge Baker children’s mental health center – the very same health center that bowed to corporate pressures. So, it wasn’t that the group was doing a bad job, or that they were at odds with Harvard to begin with. On the contrary, what they were doing was working and children were being helped! Heaven forbid!
If you think this is all OK, then by all means continue buying Disney products.
However, if you feel compelled to make a difference and care about what these corporate monsters are doing to our children’s brains and futures (and to the few people brave enough to be champions for kids’ rights), then vote with your wallet. Talk to other parents. Find alternatives (start by turning off your TV). Get informed. And help make a difference for your children.
Read the full story here.
Tags: advertising, baby einstein, children, consumerism, corporate climate, corporate greed, corporations, disney, educational videos, mainstream media, marketing, parenting, parents, raising children, vote with your wallet
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