The Power of Prime

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Don’t Tell Your Children They’re Competent

Our parenting culture made a big mistake by telling parents that the way to instill competence in their children was to tell them how competent they were. Parents bought into this message and starting telling their children how smart and talented and wonderful they were. But here's the problem. Children can't be convinced that they are competent. Read More

Actually, it depends

Some kids ARE easily convinced that they're good at things they haven't mastered at all. I know because my own son has always been very different.

Most 3 year olds will happily pick up crayons, draw a complete mess, and then tell you gleefully "It's a doggie." At 3, my son was already smart enough to know what a dog looks like, and he knew perfectly well that his scrawls didn't look ANYTHING like a dog. Unlike his peers, he KNEW when he wasn't good at something, and he dreaded going to preschool art classes for a long time, because he's always hated doing things he knows he's not good at.

And smart kids REALLY hate being patronized. A kid who KNOWS he's not good at drawing will become angry if you try to tell him how beautiful his work is.

I think you are sweating the small stuff

I don't think it did me any harm for my parents to tell me I was smart. I had plenty of other kids and even a few teachers telling me I was stupid, so it was good to get some encouragement somewhere. I still tried to learn and achieve things. Some things I was able to master and some I was unable to master. I don't think the encouragement I got from my parents hurt me any.

Don't be positive when your

Don't be positive when your children fail. Be real. Tell the, that even though it is going to happen again and again, it is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Tell them that they DIDN'T do right or work hard. And tell them that untl they gain tha competence, they are just damn well going to have to accept that they are NOT OK!

not acceptable to whom?

"it is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Tell them that they DIDN'T do right or work hard"

It is not clear why failure means not working hard. Plenty of people work hard and do not get anywhere for many reasons......and while it is reasonable not to praise something which is not great, it is quite UNREASONABLE to make a kid feel bad or inadequate.

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Jim Taylor, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco.

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