Come on, kid, please just... try?
September 8, 2016 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for thoughts/resources/anecdotes for instilling in a child (nearly 6) the value of making an effort rather than just short-circuiting to "I can't do it". I'd happily settle for "I tried and it didn't work" or "I got partway and I need help with the rest" but the instantaneous "I don't know" or "I can't do it" is making me a little crazy. When I try to explain the importance of making a good faith effort I'm afraid it sounds like I'm picking on him. So age appropriate scripts for remaining positive while pointing out that he hasn't even tried to do the thing before giving up would also be welcome. Please note that I'm well aware that he's still very little, but this is a lifelong core value as far as I'm concerned and I don't think it's too early to start teaching it gently.

So - a bit of background. Micropanda is nearly 6, smart, sweet, inquisitive, and very sensitive. He has diagnosed sensory processing and coordination issues but has made a lot of progress over the last year and a half, due in part to maturation and in part to a concerted effort by parents, teachers, and occupational therapist. He attends a Montessori 3-6 program and is doing the kindergarten year this year. In an effort to provide him with downtime, we don't have him in after-school activities - he's picked up by a sitter at 3, has decompression time before an early dinner, then I and/or dad get home shortly after he and his younger sister eat. We play or read stories for awhile before sister's 7pm bedtime, then do a 1 on 1 activity of his choosing until his 8pm bedtime.

He's academically quite advanced. He's a fluent reader and has been for some time. We are trying to teach him Japanese (his father's language) at home and he definitely has mixed feelings about this. Whenever I ask him to do something that he thinks might be challenging, he shuts down instantaneously. Example - we were watching the Japanese equivalent of Sesame Street this morning and an image pops up with the question "are there more cherries or puddings?" I pause and ask him - flop. whine. Idon'tknow. I press the issue. He smoothly counts both and easily determines the answer. Or - he spends a lot of time looking at books. Occasionally I ask him if he's reading the words. He always says no. I suggest he give it a shot. He says it's too hard. But if I say, oh really? sit down beside him and persuade him to read it to me aloud, he reads the page fluently and emotively without a hitch.

Now I realize I'm about to get a pileon from people informing me that 5 year olds shouldn't be reading anyway and why am I complaining about this. It's not about that. I'm happy for him to relax by sitting and looking at books. I don't mind if he forgets a Japanese word he previously knew or if he miscounts puddings. I just want him to TRY THINGS. These are only a couple of examples of a steady stream of I-don't-knows and I-can't-do-its about things he absolutely can do, and I want to teach him that it's important to try.

We never penalize mistakes and we talk a lot about the importance of practice and how it's ok if you can't do things on the first try, and how your brain is like a muscle and even if you're frustrated that you don't understand this Japanese story today we'll keep practicing and your brain will learn new words and then you will be able to. We enthusiastically praise successes achieved by effort. I try to remain cognizant of when he's tired or overloaded and thus may not be able to use skills he normally would have. We seriously bend over backwards not to pressure the kid. But at the same time I want to encourage him to practice whatever skills he has, and teach him not to just wilt in the face of perceived challenge. Usually when this happens it's because he THINKS he can't do it.

We're playing the long game here - I don't expect overnight change and I know he's little - but among our core family values are - be kind to people, apologize for your mistakes, learn things while having fun and being silly, and MAKE AN EFFORT. However, I want to be able to explain that to him gently without it sounding like I'm berating him for being a quitter, which is how I'm afraid is how it's coming across right now.
posted by telepanda to Human Relations (50 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
My tip for any kid would be not to interrupt an enjoyable pastime to turn it into a learning experience. None of my kids have responded well to this. If he's watching Sesame Street, let him watch it. If he's looking at/reading a book, let him enjoy it in any way he can. Only one of my kids ever did the "typical" kid thing of reading road signs or enjoying looking for boxes with a K on them at the grocery store.

I have a smart, academically advanced kid who came with "perfectionism" pre-wired. We home-school, and so have spent a lot of time working on the idea of the good-faith effort, or pointing out that, once again, he thought he couldn't do something but by the end of the page, totally had it. But it's one thing to do that in a structured academic environment where learning a specific thing is the point. It's another to ask him to read out loud to you instead of letting him be to enjoy his book, or pausing his TV show to quiz him. Don't do that anymore.
posted by not that girl at 7:21 AM on September 8, 2016 [48 favorites]

Praise efforts, not results.
"You sure worked hard building that Lego mall; it looks great!"
posted by axismundi at 7:24 AM on September 8, 2016 [19 favorites]

Best answer: "Hey, kiddo. Give it a shot because I want you to make mistakes. Mistakes help you grow and learn, and you know, when I was you age, I tried to do [thing] and I did [mistake] and you know what? [Moral of your personal experience]. So, make all the mistakes and I'm here to help you when you do." Or some version of that.

For my now 7 year old this kinda talk and repetition all of a sudden flipped a switch in his head and he took off with it. He'd even share the stories we told him about our mistakes with his friends.

We're still working with the soon-to-be-five-year-old. One response with some things I've used is, "Yes, you can, silly! I saw you do it yesterday! Or, goofball, you did this at [event.]" and she'll get all excited with, "Oh, yeah!" But some things we still struggle miserably with with her -- like socks. Socks are the worst. She's finally putting them on herself with all the grumpiness that goes with it, but pick your battles to a point.
posted by zizzle at 7:27 AM on September 8, 2016 [14 favorites]

I have several thoughts here. One, I think it is an important core value. We have 3 kids and they all learned or appreciated the value, but at vastly different times. They are all out of HS and I can say they practice it, but when it became internal, I do not know.

Two, if he is vary able to do the task when pressed, I am not sure he is saying he doesn't want to try when he says it is too hard, etc. When I was 5, I went to a local day camp one summer. One day the counselor asked my mom if she knew I was afraid of the water. My mom laughed and said he is not afraid of the water. When I got home she asked me why I refused to go swimming everyday. I told her it was because they made me blow bubbles and stay in the kiddie pool. I knew how to swim! It was boring and not worth the trouble of getting wet. Maybe what you are asking him to do is not challenging enough?

I think you (any parent) is playing the long game here. If you stick to your core values and ask him to at least try, over time, he will get it. He may already be doing it out of the home too. I know my kids reverted or seemed to regress from their outside life when they were at home. Plenty of manners, polite kids, tried the dinner, etc at school or at a friend's house, but at home? Oh my.
posted by AugustWest at 7:30 AM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

What you describe here doesn't sound to me like a kid who doesn't want to try new things. It sounds like a kid who doesn't want to perform on command, or doesn't have the emotional energy to do so at that moment. He's trying to set a personal boundary. I think you will teach him a very valuable lesson if you respect his efforts.
posted by helpthebear at 7:35 AM on September 8, 2016 [75 favorites]

One thing I noticed from your question is that all your examples involve things you were asking your son to do. Is it possible this is mostly a way for him to resist your requests?

In any case, noticing aloud the times he does make an effort as well as narrating when you yourself struggle are my two suggestions.
posted by wyzewoman at 7:38 AM on September 8, 2016 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I have a 6 year old who was (is) similar, and what helps for me is reminding him that "the first step of being really good at something is being really terrible at it!" The first time I had that talk with him, I used things he's good at and asked him if he remembers the first time he did it. Like running! He loves running, and I told him the first time he tried to walk he fell down! And we laughed about it. That seemed to help a lot. His fear came from the place where he was scared to fail/be bad at something, but now he knows that in order to be good at something, you have to be bad at it first. And we celebrate that first "terrible" step.
posted by katypickle at 7:50 AM on September 8, 2016 [12 favorites]

Are they seeing similar behaviors at school? If that's the case, then it seems to tip a bit more to being anxiety/discomfort at being put in a performance situation in which case some gentle opportunities to make a mistake and lots and lots of praise for sticking with something tough and working through a mistake would be the way to do. If it's something that you're seeing more at home, though, that would kind of speak to what others have noticed above. That these are "down time" activities for him and making it into a quiz feels wrong for him. In that case, respecting the line he's drawn and giving more organic opportunities for those skills to emerge would probably be the way to go. Reading the books to him when he wants to listen (he's still reading the text along with you, most likely) and letting him quietly read to himself is great. Speak with him in Japanese as you do in English rather than making it a quiz. Kids are learning all the time, and especially at that age so much of learning is through play and direct experiences.
posted by goggie at 7:53 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What you're describing is a very common occurrence with gifted children. They have high internal expectations for themselves and are afraid to "fail" at doing something. So instead of trying and making a mistake and trying again, they just say, nah and get to hang out in their comfort zone. If they don't try then they can't fail.

As your kid gets ready for kindergarten, I would make sure to look into services available for gifted children. They will have curriculum and techniques that are familiar with these common attitudes and will be equipped to help kids overcome these attitudes. One curriculum you might scan for narratives is the SuperFlex Curriculum, which focuses on the idea of "rock brain" versus "tree brain." One always stays the same and the other one grows, but to grow you have to be willing to try new things and that making mistakes often leads to doing better down the line. I can't find the video right now, but there was a great one showing a kid paining a butterfly and his progression from his first attempt to a final attempt, which was much better. What would he have thought if he'd had rock brain and stopped at his first attempt?
posted by LKWorking at 7:55 AM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Just a few thoughts about the language aspect of this, since I have a background in language acquisition. Anecdotally: I have several friends who are trying to teach their child a language that, while native to one parent, is a minority language in their culture/region, and the children (ages 3-6-ish) WILL HAVE NONE OF IT and, when forced to communicate in that language, are prone to sulks very much like what you're describing with your kiddo. On the other hand, I teach a minority language at the middle school level to students who are "heritage" speakers via one or both parents, and I sense that at that age, they are much more interested in cultivating their second language. There is lots of good info in this LinguistList FAQ on multilingual parenting though of course, as someone who obviously cares very much about parenting bilingually you likely know more about this than I do!

I know the language example was just one from a larger phenomenon you're describing, but I wonder if what your kid is phrasing as "I CAN'T DO THIS" is really a way of saying "I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS" that is worth teasing out/listening to further? It sounds like you are thinking about language as a skill he needs to practice, like playing an instrument; but language is functional in a way that, e.g. music, is not. I know I get super frustrated when my mom asks me to "perform" various foreign languages that I speak for her, because it just feels really weird to speak it for the sake of speaking it, rather than doing something functional/communicative with it. Your kid may find more intrinsic motivation for this practice as he comes to see Japanese as, indeed, a valuable skill - at the moment he may be perceiving your efforts to practice with him as arbitrary / meaningless language production. Just a thought.
posted by Owl of Athena at 7:56 AM on September 8, 2016 [20 favorites]

Anecdote that may be useful:

9yo kmennie jr went to the first judo class of the year here yesterday. She'd mentioned she was enrolled to a neighbouring friend. Neighbour: 'You won't like it, the teacher is mean.'

We enrolled in this in no small part because we had had the Sensei teach judo at our homeschool co-op a little while back and thought he was the bomb, and he really made a big difference between likes judo/does not like judo. (Actually, as is, LOVES judo.)

We figured the neighbour kid was possibly enrolled in a different martial art or at a different dojo.

"Her mum makes her do a LOT of things she hates," offered my kid by way of explanation when we discovered she really was enrolled at the dojo with the excellent teacher.

Whereas little kmennie is largely 'unschooled' and though told she needs to learn math, spelling, et cetera, or live on the streets as an adult (heh), she has never been pushed. Once she shows enthusiasm in something, it's off to the races -- and if you sign up for something, you are required to complete the thing, but if you decide you do not like it, you do not have to do it again next year.

We had a nice talk about how it was interesting that the kid who was 'made to do a lot of things she hates' had the perception that 'the teacher is mean' (I sat in on the class; the instructors are all first-rate and very patient with the younger/newer members of the dojo), whereas her only issue was that she hoped to move up from a white belt fairly quickly. And she likely will, because she is quite hyped about it and giving 100% in class.

So my advice is to look for areas of interest, and then pounce on them and explore them when they present themselves. I spent -- ugh -- several years learning far more than I ever wanted to know about lampreys, because for some reason (probably mostly having to do with an interestingly graphic and well-done museum display) lampreys were a source of fascination. If I had said "But, we have cats, and it is much easier to find information on cats; wouldn't you rather learn about cats instead?" I'm sure I would have been told "no" and that would have been the end of it.

This is also a kid who will not touch a thing until she is confident that she will succeed at it. Did not walk a single step unaided until 15mo, then flew off with zero toddler wobble and no falls. Abruptly asked one morning to have the training wheels taken off her bike, zoomed down the street flawlessly. Many times I have been tempted to push for this or that, but it is apparently built in that it is just not to be enjoyed unless the confidence level is where it needs to be (and then all that has been quietly absorbed over the years comes zooming to the forefront, and she does it just as well as if she had been told to practice all along).
posted by kmennie at 7:57 AM on September 8, 2016 [13 favorites]

Yeah, I would suggest that he just doesn't want to spoil his enjoyment of Japanese Sesame Street by having to perform on command. It's not like these are things he's trying to do and then giving up, it's that these are things you are insisting he does and he is resisting.

How about taking a step back and letting him come to you with things he's trying to learn. Also, next time you are trying something difficult, maybe narrate while you do it: okay, I'm going to try to put this table together. The instructions say to do this... hmm, that didn't work... say, would you hold this in place for me while I tighten the screws, and see if that works?" ...etc.
posted by tel3path at 7:58 AM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

Why do we try hard things when we don't absolutely have to? Because they are fun and because we can imagine a good result (fun success, fun failure, fun process).

What is fun? Fun is when things are just a _little_ difficult and there's nothing -- no pressure, distractions, or fear -- getting in the way of that imagination and focus we need for enjoyment.
posted by amtho at 8:02 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I should also say that I did a lot of drawing as a teenager, and my dad would pounce on the drawings and critique them, do things like demand I not use a reference or copy existing drawings (regardless that I found the exercise of copying enjoyable); and he always threatened to get me "drawing lessons", a threat which thankfully never turned to action.

If I'd been asking him for drawing lessons, that would've been something different, y'know? In hindsight, I wish I had just done my drawings and hidden them; I can't blame him for critiquing when I was the one who persisted in showing them to him. But this is how I became so private and secretive that I didn't want to show my work to my parents at all.
posted by tel3path at 8:03 AM on September 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I sympathize! This is a really hard thing to teach, and just based on my own experience, I think it's a common thing for kids around that age to suddenly decide they don't want to try things that you know they can do.

That said, just as my own personal reaction: I don't see that your examples show that he's running away from things that are too challenging. When you finally got him to count the cherries, he did it "smoothly and easily." When you got him to read, he did it "fluently."

To me, that suggests that "I don't know" or "I can't do it" is more of an attempt to get you to leave him alone, rather than a sincere expression of hopelessness. At age five, he might have figured out that "I don't wanna" isn't going to get him out of doing something, and he might have noticed "I can't do it" works on some adults some times.

In a year or two, he'll be better able to articulate the real reasons he doesn't want to do something (or, at the very least, he'll be better at manipulating you by giving a reason you'll respond to!) In the mean time, the best technique might simply be to do what you're already doing: praising his effort, as well as talking things you've tried and failed at initially. You might also try to frame your praise of other adults in those terms-- "Wow, that soccer player is really good! He must have practiced really hard to get that good, because there's no way he was that good when he started!"

More generally, one thing we found helpful, in terms of core family values: we had a family meeting with our kids and agreed on a list of our family values. Needless to say, we took our kids contributions very seriously and made sure they felt their values were included, too. Then we made charts for everybody in the family-- including the grownups! Anybody can put a star on anybody else's chart when they feel they've done something that represents that value. Different colored stars are from different family members, so you can tell who noticed you doing which good thing. The kids seem to really enjoy giving stars as much as they enjoy getting them.

Here's mine! Apparently, I'm very kind and I have a good sense of humor, but I really need to work on my listening...
posted by yankeefog at 8:04 AM on September 8, 2016 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Saying this is too hard or variations thereof, was and is my son's favourite way of saying I don't want to do this (right now).
We sometimes watch English langauge children's shows (his mother tongue is German), and if I were to ask him anything during those shows (whcih I did in the beginning, as there were like prompts for the parent to ask the kid about something on the screen, eg how many blue birds do you see), he got furious and claimed it is too hard.
However, I realised that he is actually reading the parent prompts and comprehends them, as he will sometimes just blurt out the answer to the written question, but never did when I asked instead saying it is too hard.

With my kid, I think it is perfectionism, which is part of his personality. He hates to fail and has syk high expectations of himself. Anything he feels he might fail at, he goes to great lengths to avoid. Not so dure why, as we are surely the least ambitous parents in our circle of school friends but he loves to be perfect. If he cannot do it pefectly, he refuses.
Sometimes, if totally ignored, he will then suddenly try on his own on his time and then he is very persistent but if I or his dad comment on him trying to teach himself or offer hepl, he gets sulky and claims he nver tried in the first place.

My solution was and is to just leave him be unless it is mandatory. He has been reading silently to himself for a very long time now - but the school requests that children must read to parents aloud once a day as part of the literacy curriculum. To get him to do this, we do a trade off: he reads one page (or whatver the assignment is) and I read to him in turn.
posted by 15L06 at 8:08 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "I can't" often means "I don't want to" or "I don't care." Pay attention to the activities he does care about, because that's when he'll say "I can't" with sincerity. For example, if he really loves building with Legos but can't figure out how to make a skyscraper, that's an opportunity for him to learn about effort, because there's a reward already built in. The reward for answering questions about TV is... probably getting to answer more questions about TV.

He doesn't have to put in effort at every possible time in order to learn the value of trying. If you wait for moments when trying will produce something he wants, it'll be a much more effective lesson.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:10 AM on September 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

Usually when this happens it's because he THINKS he can't do it.

Well, that's what he's telling you. It's not like you're giving him room for any other justification, (like he may just not want to.)

I don't know a single kid who enjoyed learning a second language by force. Every one of them resented the hell out of artificial efforts (like being assigned books or media to entertain as "homework", or being forced to attend language or "cultural" classes on an extra-curricular basis).

I'm fluent in my parents' language only because 1) my parents spoke to me in said language; 2) non-English-speaking family members from the Old Country often visited for extended periods; and 3) my family visited the OC every summer until I was in my teens. Immersion is the way to go, because it offers natural, built-in incentives - curiosity is rewarded - and no extra-natural punishment. (And I was an early, keen, and persistent reader - on my own initiative, for pleasure, of books written in the language afforded to me in my natural environment.)

Just let him observe you and your partner speaking in Japanese.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:12 AM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

If he is a fluent reader and academically advanced, he is already not only trying, but actually succeeding. Give him food for his interests, praise, but leave well alone otherwise. This isn't about your learning goals but his. It is a classical fallacy to think that kids that age "aren't trying" when the actual problem is that they're being fed the wrong stuff.
posted by Namlit at 8:14 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Model the behavior yourself. Does he see get to see you and his dad trying lots of things you don't know how to do, or do badly, and having fun with that? Being okay, or even laughing at how badly you suck at something? Does he ever see you and dad confront a problem or question and be confused, discouraged, scared, nervous, then see how you slowly work through how to calm yourself down, try again, fail and still have a good time? Rather than quizzing him on his Japanese, have him help you learn Spanish. Do it badly and laugh off your inability to roll your 'r's. Make a dinner together that tastes so terrible you have to throw it away and eat cereal for dinner. Have a dad sing out of tune. Lose your keys. Show him it's not a disaster, life isn't pass/fail, it's multi-choice, and improvisation.
posted by tula at 8:14 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

As a 35 year old, my first reaction to ANY boring, dumb task is still "UGH, I can't." It does not mean I actually can't, or that I won't. Right now, I'm having that reaction to a work assignment. I will do the work assignment! On time, and substantially well. But first my brain needs to wrap itself around the need to do something a) I don't care about and b) that isn't objectively that useful or important.

Your child's tendency to say "I can't" and then do the thing "smoothly" suggests he may be doing the same thing. "I can't" is the 6 year old's "Ugh, not again."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:15 AM on September 8, 2016 [14 favorites]

To some extent, this is baked in to personality. Of our three kids, only one (the youngest) was even remotely a self-starter. He has some internal drive to try things that the other two lacked completely. The oldest discovered it in his late teens, and the middle one (now a high school senior) may never discover it. We struggled (struggle) with middle one, even though a good section of professional expertise that we've sought on his issues has been, simply, adjust your parental expectations to the reality of your child.

That said, as commenter above noted, praise efforts rather than results is something we'd been advised to do years ago for middle kid. It's been helpful -- not just for him, but for us as parents. It helps us focus on the right side of the equation.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:20 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would be wary of pushing him to produce answers in the way you describe. I understand what you're trying to do, but as the child of a mother, who, though I love her dearly, sometimes treated me in childhood like a performing seal, performing under pressure can destroy intrinsic love of learning or natural curiosity. I don't think it's a coincidence that it's precisely the things my parents did not encourage me to do, or around which there was the least pressure to perform, that I gravitate to now as enjoyable activities (for me, it was reading and cooking - reading, because I was an early and enthusiastic reader, so my parents were more interested in getting me outside, and cooking, because my mother was wary of teaching my stereotypically feminine things and would have preferred that I play with Legos and Erector sets). As long as your child loves being around books, and wants to look at the pictures, the reading will come over time.
posted by peacheater at 8:20 AM on September 8, 2016 [17 favorites]

In your Sesame Street equivalent example, I would have let the show continue while I joyfully and animatedly shouted out the wrong answer. Throw up your arms and holler "CHERRIES!"

The kid either not pay attention to you (in which case let him be, because he's having some interior time) or enjoy correcting you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:23 AM on September 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

Your kid was making an effort, ie watching a show in another language, all you did was then make him have to jump through hoops while doing it. Next time when the show is over, praise him for watching the show, say something like "Well done watching a show in another language can be hard because you have to work so hard to understand & you watched whole show (10 mins of show how ever much he watched). Hey lets go do something fun now. Reward the effort.

Don't make learning languages a task, kids are language sponges but they don't learn languages from you sitting & talking to them research shows languages are learned by hearing them spoken, so you & your partner should just speak Japanese around him like it's no big thing, model correct grammar etc, let him hear you using it as something other than work he has to do. If he joins in join the conversation with him, don't make it about OH no must use correct grammar must use this word order etc, just encourage him to speak it, hearing you speaking it correctly to your partner will help him learn what is correct, at this age figuring out grammar is literally what his brain is wired to do let it do it. . Remember you don't tell a baby that it isn't "UP" it's "please I want to get up now" remember that attitude with languages now.

Also stop escalating when he is making an effort, any effort gets praise. You're reading your books great, it doesn't have to be an educational opportunity for you to escalate it to reading out loud, he's watching an educational show, you don't have to interrupt with questions. How do you feel if you are concentrating hard on something new to you at work & your boss comes up & asks you what you are doing & hows it going & oh quick whats the answer to these random things that you haven't really got a grasp on yet. You get annoyed right, so does your son. It looks like he's just sitting watching TV or faffing around with books but he's working his little brain off learning. You are trying to encourage the habit.

When he starts making an effort more get more specific about what you are praising. Great picture I love how you stayed in the lines. Wow you said that really hard word correctly (even if say the grammar was wrong).

With the reading do you let him just read to you? Or do you correct? Is it well that was good but you did x wrong? Or is it oooh I wonder what happens to Pat the Puppy after that? Don't make everything an educational opportunity, kids learn by doing stuff. Also all your comments about your kid where about how "book" smart he was but no mention of how he handles say social interactions or the like which I found interesting. Be careful that your only measure of him isn't' how smart he is, research shows that kids that are told they are smart all the time actually think they should be able to learn things without effort & will get frustrated & stop making an effort because making an effort is what not smart people do. They don't want to lose their identity as smart.
posted by wwax at 8:29 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oops, I guess I hit post when I was trying to preview.

Anyway. Pop quizzes/demands out of the blue like this don't teach the importance of broad, self-directed effort. They teach a very specific kind of effort, namely, "always be ready to do what someone says right when they say it, even if it means interrupting your own thoughts/activities." Bonus, it can also teach the exact opposite of broad, self directed effort: Doing just enough to pass whatever arbitrary test someone springs on you. Or: not doing anything, because if you aren't reading a Japanese book in the first place, your parents can't make you read it aloud.

I'm not sure that's the value you actually mean to teach.

Consider what you actually want your child's value of effort to accomplish in his life. Do you value effort because it impresses others? Do you value it as an end in itself, trying for the sake of trying? Do you value it as a means to more satisfying, fulfilling ends?

Make sure the activities you use to instill a value in your kid (and I agree with others here that modeling will be more effective overall than activities) actually model the thing you want him to learn, I guess.

In the specific cases you mention, I'd suggest:
-- you not quiz him on the Sesame Street program while he's watching. Ask him a question about it later, maybe, just in a laid-back discussion. See where he goes. If he struggles finding a word, let him put the effort in because he wants to communicate with you, not because you've told him to.
-- Same with the times you see him "looking at" a Japanese book. He's reading it, you know it damn well, but if he says he's reading it, you're going to INTERRUPT HIM READING, which if you do that to someone on a subway, is the rudest ever! Ask him later. He'll likely reach, again, for specifics in order to tell you about it. He'll make the effort because there's a reason to. And because he's not annoyed AF about how he can't do one little thing uninterrupted. ;)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:41 AM on September 8, 2016 [32 favorites]

My 5 year old has a bunch of set phrases that mean "I'm not interested in doing that right now", whether or not the phrase he uses is true or not. (i.e., sees something scary, covers his eyes, and yells "This is too boring!") "I can't" might be one of those for your kid. I've also noticed that if he's in a classroom environment and the teacher says "okay, it's time for everyone to sit at their desk and do this math worksheet", he's 100% engaged with it, but if I say "Hey, how about you show me how you do this math problem you did in class," he balks. He doesn't like performing. I mention that because the examples you mention sound more performative, so he might be the same.

Ways we work on encouraging attempts: I talk through my thought process a lot when I'm doing something difficult for me (driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood, cooking something different, doing crafts with him), including talking through what I will do if I fail at my goal. If I get lost, I'll pull over and look at the map. If the cardboard doesn't fold right, I'll get another piece. Sometimes we talk those things through together, if he's catastrophizing his way out of trying something. I verbalize mistakes I make a lot because they are often ones he wouldn't notice. I burned the cookies, I'm disappointed I won't get to eat all of them, even though I did a better job on the second batch. Now I know what these cookies are supposed to look like when they're ready.

And we talk about examples of him getting better at things. He was taking swimming lessons all winter and spring. He liked being in the water but struggled with the lessons, especially as he saw much younger children go into the more advanced classes. He had a breakthrough this summer and we talked a lot about how sometimes progress happens without it being visible.

Lastly, we're still mostly in the "learning through play" phase. The flip side of that is that if it's not play, he might not consider it to be worth learning.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:41 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My eldest has the same gut response. Here are some things that have helped:

- we have a "signpost" activity (martial arts) where he was motivated and totally into it and we remind him that he didn't arrive at martial arts fully formed, but mildly like this: "I hate french, I'm no good at it like Alex is." "Well, you're just at white belt as you just started and Alex is at green belt."

- reflect feelings "I can't do long division" = "You're feeling really overwhelmed by your long division homework right now?" "NO I CAN'T DO IT" "You really feel like you can't get your brain around this."

- We abandon tasks but deliberately "It's too late tonight to tackle this, so tomorrow when the gas tank for trying new things is more full we'll finish this off."

I agree that modelling though is the best. I share a lot with my kids when I'm overwhelmed or resistant and they laugh at me.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:48 AM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

I just wanted to add on to axismundi's excellent answer above that the reason why praising efforts rather than abilities is important is because it's an evidence-based method of getting kids to put more effort into a task. Very few things in parenting are based on research but this one is. It's all laid out in the book NurtureShock, but you can find a media synopsis here.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:59 AM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: One thing I would suggest is modeling cheerful failure.

In my house growing up, making a mistake was turned into a chance to mock the person who had failed. My parents didn't mean for it to be malicious, but it definitely made me feel paralyzed and ashamed when it came to the possibility that I might screw something up.

Parents to make an effort to showcase their own mistakes and failures as 1) not a big deal, and 2) a chance to learn and move on can really teach kids that it is safe to try new things.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:00 AM on September 8, 2016 [14 favorites]

There was a recent Washington Post "On Parenting" column answering a question about motivation for a 10 year old. You might still be interested in some of what the response was. Here's a link to the column.
posted by gudrun at 9:08 AM on September 8, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the thoughts this far - not all easy to hear, and in some ways I see I could have expressed myself better, but I definitely see some ways that we could be doing better.

To those who have asked - yes, avoiding challenge has been a long standing theme at school as well and I really appreciate those responses about perfectionist kids. There is unquestionably a component of that. We have also had many instances where $fun activity of his choosing became un-fun the moment resistance was encountered, but was retroactively fun again the times we were able to get through it. We have been working with the OT to practice talking through the frustration and finding a solution that will allow us to keep going (this is training for both us and him).

But there is also a really good collective point about the performance aspect. To be clear, we do give him large swaths of fully uninterrupted time, but I can still see where I get carried away sometimes. Point taken - the last thing I want to do is to suck the joy out of life.

P.s. We are big on praising for effort over ability, and I am definitely in the "tell me about this red over here" or "wow, that pikachu looks fierce" school of commenting on drawings.
posted by telepanda at 9:14 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Reading this, I felt pretty exhausted. I'd say, please stop pushing for a while. I'd say, take a step back and try to figure out why you want your almost-6 year to be able to perform like this.

You said your core values are being nice and being silly. It seems like the value you are communicating is pushing. Let the kid say no... or back off for a bit. Is he really having fun? Are you?

We enthusiastically praise successes achieved by effort.

You're still praising success. Do you ever praise failure? It seems like you get frustrated with his mistakes or lack of trying. He's learned that success gets the praise, so he doesn't always want to try. If it's really okay to fail, try something hard and silly and have fun with failing.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:37 AM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

My kid sister (almost 30 years my junior) had this around the same age, and after much back-and-forth and trial and error, it was uncovered that she had a learning disability when it came to processing certain types of information in certain ways. If she had to remember instructions, or write them down, everything got scrambled in her head. If she was able to assemble the information in other ways - piecing together existing steps into an order, for example, with physical items or on a laptop/tablet, she could understand enough to take the next steps.

I'm explaining it badly, both because it was several years ago and because we're not incredibly close given the age difference. And it wasn't that the learning disability impacted everything she was trying to do, but that she was getting so frustrated by it that she didn't want to try anything. Uncovering the disability helped in two ways - it gave her ways to work with and/or around her disability, but it also taught her that there are ways to work with and around obstacles in her life, and it's made a *huge* difference in her grades and overall demeanor. (She'll be 11 in the fall, so this was about 5 years ago.)
posted by okayokayigive at 9:45 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Kids develop at different speeds. Assuming there are no cognitive, emotional or learning disabilities, I would just relax. Our seven-year-old is a bit of a late bloomer in some ways. We find that if he is interested in a specific thing, he'll learn to do it on his own. But trying to get him to, say, spell in English (Japanese writing is fine), is like pulling teeth.

Our tack is to just be patient and wait for him to be ready. Like I said, kids develop at different speeds, and the big thing is they do change and develop cognitively and emotionally.
posted by My Dad at 9:48 AM on September 8, 2016

Best answer: I'm autistic and my mother frequently did little performance drills with me when I was a kid. She spent my entire life getting upset at me for not trying things, for not putting in any effort when tasks were difficult, and was really frustrated by me not getting excellent results at every task she put in front of me. All this did was make me feel like my wants/needs weren't important and that all that mattered was looking like I was trying, regardless of how easy/hard I actually felt the task to be. Needless to say this has turned me into even more of a failure-avoidant risk-averse person and any time I need to show my work (of any kind) to someone with authority I panic that they will feel I didn't work hard enough on it.

Consider that your child trying things, putting in effort, might not look like what you think it does. It sounds like he is already doing the things you are asking him to do before you prompt him to do it but because you don't SEE him doing it you're assuming that he isn't doing it. You can't witness his internal processes. Try to have some faith that your kid is engaged instead of needing to verify that he is engaged, especially if this is his downtime.

Also consider that this is your disabled (sensory processing can make things really different!) kid trying to express boundaries in a way that you will respect and understand. The response to "I can't do it" shouldn't be "yes you can just try harder", it should be "OK, how can I help you?". In addition to modeling that it should be OK to make mistakes, model that it's OK to ask for help, and model listening to other people's words instead of bulldozing through based on what you think they actually mean.

It sounds like you are doing really well with your kid in general! I just know that a lot of well-meaning parents can get wrapped up in "I want my kid to succeed!!" and become sort of parent-perfectionists. Try not to channel your typical parental worries into performance drills to make sure your kid is on track with where you want them to be. Your kid is allowed to be bad at things, your kid is allowed to be bad at things that you value, and you can only shape his behaviour so much. Let him be a kid, let him grow up into his own person. It sounds like he's going to grow up just fine.
posted by buteo at 9:59 AM on September 8, 2016 [21 favorites]

yeah, what with the "sweet and sensitive" attributes it doesn't sound at all like he's afraid of failure or effort; it sounds like he's afraid of -- or doesn't know he's allowed to -- say No without a good excuse. "I can't" succeeds where "I don't want to" fails, so he will cling to it as an out until or unless he knows there's some other way he can refuse an activity.

I could be completely wrong but I was a child who would not entertain the thought of public failure, which translated into absolutely refusing to be seen to make an effort (a little different from fear of effort overall, but close enough.) This doesn't sound like that at all since he can actually do the stuff he's saying he can't do.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:04 AM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The response to "I can't do it" shouldn't be "yes you can just try harder", it should be "OK, how can I help you?".

I love this line and am highlighting it so I remember it.
posted by telepanda at 10:16 AM on September 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

My 6-year-old does this, and I think is also used to just being good at stuff so he gets snippy when something doesn't come easy. It can be maddening and pushes some of my buttons.

I've kind of learned (still a work in progress, of course) about what to push on and what not to. He just learned to ride a two-wheeler. We took his training wheels off last year. He just never wanted to give it a shot until we kind of made him do it, and gave him lots and lots of praise for each progressive step. Within a day, of course, he was tearing around as if he was born riding. But OMG the drama of "but I can't DO IT" and "everyone else knows how to ride their bike EXCEPT ME" and "this is TOO HARD" and on and on. It wasn't something that would get better with time - he isn't going to magically know how to ride at 7 if he doesn't know at 6 - you have to try and you have to learn, period (actually, it probably gets harder the more you wait and the worse you build it up in your head).

So all that to say that I back off on some things, but other things require an effort at least. I knew that once he got it he'd be super proud of himself, and I keep telling him how proud we are of how he kept trying even though it was hard. And of course, I will whip that out the next time he protests having to try something difficult - "remember riding your bike? It was hard but you tried and you got it!"
posted by shrieking violet at 10:25 AM on September 8, 2016

You have to praise effort. You don't want to praise inherent ability. There have been studies on this and praising kids for just being "good" does not work and may be contributing to his anxiety. If he believes he is just "good" he's not going to want to make a mistake that could change that. I'm not saying you do this, but I am suggesting that you root ALL of your praise in effort. "You worked hard and this came out great!" etc. Like, never stay from this. Every time he does something well, even something small like brushing his teeth, make it abundantly clear that he did well only because he tried.

Do you talk about failure? Do you admit your own mistakes? Taking about times that YOU have made mistakes and learned from them and kept trying is also highly important. You are his number one model for behavior right now so if you aren't presenting the behavior you want from him it's going to inhibit his ability to do as you ask.

Finally, how much agency does he have? Do you let him just.... not feel like it? This may be his way of saying no when he doesn't know how to say no outright. I always tell children upfront when they have a right to say no to me. And I ALWAYS listen when they exercise that right.
posted by Amy93 at 10:33 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I see you followed up on this and that it happens in lots of situations but put me in the camp that he just doesn't want to do this stuff. Especially if it's a pop quiz.

Instead of pausing and asking "how many puddings" why not get involved like "I missed how many pudding there are- can you help me out? How many did you see?" Then it's a conversation not a task. If he pushes back then you can help or coax or honestly let it go and try something else later.

Same with"are you reading?" It sounds like an iterrigation. Why not
"Oh that book looks good. Will you read it with me?" Maybe start saying line one then ask him to take over.

And I agree. Sometimes kids are like this. Sometimes for a short while - sometimes for their whole life. As the parent you should help but also not it more stressful. There have been milennia of children who "couldn't!" And turned out fine.

I feel like I had similar traits. Because I was intelligent and stubborn and a bit of a perfectionist. I was shy on top of it. My parents loved making me "try to talk to strangers" in a service environment like a restaurant and I HATED IT! And said I couldn't. And wiggled my way out of it. I did the same thing with driving at 16 and didn't get my license till I was 18 or a car until I was 21. But I love driving now.

When I was 18 I had a sobbing breakdown trying to take the college math entrance exam because not to brag but I was in advanced math and the exam had stuff I hadn't done in years and I sobbed and said I couldn't do it and my dad had to step in and tell me I'm okay. And it was. And i graduated with honors. And I'm still an introvert though I fake being outgoing. And I still get frustrated when I don't learn something instantly.

And I still can't do the trump impression my husband loves on request but give me five minutes and I have the best words and the greatest impressions.

So yeah - take a step back a little and evaluate how and when this resistance comes in. See what teachers/doctors/therapists suggest. But this sounds also like regular kid resistance.

And again because I was so stubborn if I didn't want to do something I just wouldn't. I'd use any excuse I could. It would be my hill to die on and it was frustrating to my paresnts. And I'm still stubborn but being strong willed made me really able to stand up for myself and say "no" to things. It's a valuable skill.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:44 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Has and I wanted to state. Like your kid I wasn't "bad". I was really easy going, nice, got good grades, not a lot of fights or tantrums etc. But just stubborn, especially if I felt cornered.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:48 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is just for the language area only, however, I suppose it could be used in other areas. I've noticed with bi-lingual families I work with, that their kids suddenly become interested in the second language when there's a secret being told. One friend of mine said her kids hovered around a lot when they thought she and her spouse were discussing Christmas/birthday presents in their native language. Then low and behold, the kids carried out full blown conversations with stewardesses, airport security and their grandparents when they traveled to their native country. Shoot, I think I learned to spell quicker because my folks spelled out all the words they didn't want me to know while gossiping, and Christmas.
posted by PJMoore at 11:49 AM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

The response to "I can't do it" shouldn't be "yes you can just try harder", it should be "OK, how can I help you?".

I love this line and am highlighting it so I remember it.

I just want to add some caution about this. Not every child wants their parents to be the one 'helping them,' and certainly not necessarily with the things the parent has decided are important in the moment. It is very possible your child is typically in the middle of absorbing and processing other things when you interrupt with random questions and prods. That scene sounds inappropriately intrusive and controlling, with little room for any sense of thought-continuity/autonomy for him-- especially when the child has been making it known that this is not his jam, not his desired method of learning/processing, and that it makes him overwhelmed and miserable. Truthfully, it also does not really sound like the way children learn to begin with.

I was pushed hard and loved every minute of it. But even my mother didn't get in my face in the manner you describe. She did, however, provide a million opportunities for learning. Lots of different classes and environments and languages and activities, non-stop. I loved it all! But if she had tried to prod answers out of me, and drill me in ways that made me feel uncomfortable, and told me how I should feel about it all too...? I don't want to pile on, but I really encourage you to rethink your approach.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:53 AM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

not really related to your question, but the comment above reminded me that what motivated me most as a child of about 7 or 8 to learn English was to understand the adults, as when I grew up the adults would switch to English so we would not understand. I never let on either, as this would have been stupid. I never admitted to the grown-ups I understood. They wanted me to learn, eventually of course, but I refused to be taught.
Instead I taught myself to read English, in secret. In school, I pretended not to know more than my class mates so successfully I had very bad grades in English. Until I was about 17 or 18 I barely ever spoke English, and few people realised I understood everything and that most of my reading was in fact in English (this worked because my grandmother had a huge library, and no one noticed or even cared if I borrowed or what I borrowed, and also most of my dad's books were in English). Mostly the family assumed I did not know much English and I saw no reason to correct them.

I only began speaking English when I moved away from home with 18, and shared a house with native speakers. Now, most of my working life of some 30 yrs has been spent working for organisations with English as the working language. For several years I worked as an interpreter, despite having no formal qualification. So language acquistion is a funny thing.
posted by 15L06 at 1:13 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We've been telling our four year old that whenever something is difficult, she should immediately give up, because it's not worth trying to do anything hard.

Daaaaaad! No! (Giggling ensues. Difficult things get tackled some - even most - of the time, but not always.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:02 PM on September 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: What happens if you and your husband play around with making mistakes?

"So I should put FIVE dishes on the table?"
"No, silly! FOUR dishes for FOUR people!"

or if you're watching the tv show, authoritatively declare "there are eleventy billion cherries!"

The more you make it a game where your child can correct you, and the more you and your husband normalize doing something badly and then trying again, the more your kid will internalize the lesson without it having to be a big standoff. Kids always learn what they actually SEE their parents perform, not what their parents TELL them. They've got amazingly good bullshit detectors that way.

And some kids, like me and my brother, don't mind putting in the work to get good at something, we just hate having others watching while we're still bad at it. So my brother refused to ride a bike without training wheels until he was old enough to figure out how to do it perfectly. And I won't practice the ukulele I have if anyone's able to hear me. (And we're both very functional middle aged adults now.) :)
posted by MsMolly at 3:23 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When my kids were around that age, I got so fed up with the whining and slacking that one day I declared the words "I can't do it" henceforth forbidden in our house (under penalty of a penny in the swear jar), and told we would say "I still need to learn it" in stead.

I know that sounds like the kind of inane rule we sleep-deprived benevolent tyrants tend to come up with for our offspring, but weirdly, it sort of... worked. I mean, not like a miracle cure, but it never failed to interrupt the whine and change the tone.

"Muuuuum, why do I have to make my own sandwiches? It's so hard and I, uh... still need to learn it" just lacks some of the crazy-making oomph, you know? And I could see their little brains switch on during that brief, hesitant pause. Realizing they've been tricked into answering their own question. And also hearing from their own mouths how it's all about learning skills and practicing, etc. No parent-talk needed.

Also, of course they turned the tables and demanded the same from me. Which was funny, and very educational. All I can say is that people of all ages should give it a try, whenever you find yourself saying you can't do something. Words are powerful.
posted by sively at 4:16 PM on September 8, 2016 [15 favorites]

I’ll admit that I’m an adult who is often stumped by complex behaviours that hide behind apparently innocuous phrases, such as ‘make an effort’, or ‘learn how to say “no”’, ‘don’t procrastinate’ (which is just a topsy-turvy way of saying ‘make an effort’, anyway), etc. So, in part for my own sake, I’ve been mulling over your questions and the excellent answers here, and I realized that, deep down, I’m not entirely sure what ‘making an effort’ actually means in practical terms. What kind of things/ actions constitute ‘having made an effort’? What kind of scenarios are conducive to me making an effort and, more importantly, a potentially productive effort? Why am I making an effort?

Obviously, I frequently DO make an effort, but I also frequently don’t, and I’m not always sure what the difference is between the two situations.

Sharing my thoughts on the what, how, and why here in case they are useful:

How do you make an effort? Steps:

Deal with external circumstances which might prevent engagement:

Am I hungry, tired, cold, hot, etc? Am I comfortable in my body otherwise? If not, remedy the situation.

Deal with internal circumstances:

1. Do I have emotions, attitudes, or beliefs that impact my engagement with the situation? This might include trust in my abilities, skills, and knowledge (like, the other day I didn’t persist with trying to repair my car after a cursory glance under the hood because I legitimately feared I might break it); fear of failure; fear of judgement; the common belief that you are only meant to do things you find easy (like, that is nature’s way of telling you where/ how you fit in); the desire to appear clever or talented coupled with a belief that intelligence/ talent mean that I will succeed at the first try, again, v. common; the desire to fit in etc. Dealing with each of the hindrances identified would be a separate question.

2. Am I well-motivated? Can I identify good reasons for persisting/ trying? For me personally it is quite important to have internal motivations (something is intrinsically fun, I’m really invested in the outcome, I understand what solving the problem is meant to achieve and I can get behind that purpose etc.) rather than merely external motivations (mum/ teacher/ boss says so, getting into a good university/ getting a pension in gazillion years, other mysterious reasons that have no apparent bearing on me).

3. Related to the above, for me this one is very important: can I somehow induce a state of flow? If I don’t automatically enter the zone, how can I cajole myself into it? I say this particularly because you mentioned sensory processing: if too many days in a row have too many effort-requiring tasks which prevent me getting into a flow, I feel like I’m in a room that is too bright and loud, being hit with a hammer over the head (barring real emergency situations, which seem to generate their own emergency psychology anyway).

4. For problems that I absolutely cannot discover an intrinsic motivation for: decide on some sort of ‘celebration of success’ at the end of the effort-making enterprise.

5. How do I give myself a pep-talk when I’m flagging?

6. How do I know I made an honest effort (giving it all, making the effort to my own satisfaction etc.) vs. an effort for show (which all of us have had occasion to see rewarded), particularly in situations where the external motivation (praise, rewards) might come to the latter as readily as to the former, sometimes even more so? I used to have a big problem with this one as a kid (still do).

Actually tackling the problem:

1. Assessing the problem: making sure that I understand the requirements, what the outcome is supposed to be (aka what am I working towards), how do I know when enough is enough/ when giving up is not a failure?

2. Do I have the tools/ knowledge/ skills etc. that are relevant to the task? If not, go to the next step.

3. If the task is difficult or complex enough to require making an effort, can I chunk it up into sub-tasks that can be dealt with separately? Sub-questions? If yes, in what order should I deal with them?

4. Deal with those parts of the task for which I have the required knowledge etc. Check if those parts that I don’t feel equipped for have become insta-accessible through this work, etc. until I am left with the stubborn remainder. Check for mistakes, in both my assessment and my execution of the task, just in case that helps me solve the remaining issues.

5. Draw on my arsenal of emotional, self-management, and knowledge-/ skill-acquiring strategies to deal with what is still left of the task. These include, in no particular order: taking a break (depending on the task, this might last a few minutes, hours, days, or more), following up on whatever potentially relevant stray thoughts I may have had and discarded during step 1-4, trying to find resources (internet, book, expert, parent, etc.), hammering away at the issue until it is sorted or I flop over with boredom or exhaustion, trying to find a potentially useful analogy/ metaphor/ whatever in my pre-existing knowledge that might at the very least show me another angle from which to tackle the problem, etc. I think an expanded list here might give a good inventory of approaches to model or do together with someone in order to expand their own arsenal.

6. Make sure that I stop within a given timeframe and celebrate/ honour the fact that I made an effort, even if I haven’t achieved the desired outcome. Otherwise I either risk going on for far too long and then feel overwhelming relief at giving up (so all I remember is that trying feels shitty and giving up feels good), or else I’ll feel like I just wasted time for no benefit, and why would I do that?

As I said, I’m not actually very good at this so this may be a totally useless list (at least I made the effort!), but I think breaking down the complexities around ‘making an effort’ might come in useful. I know that for myself I sometimes prefer to do things that I am already good at in part because I really don’t know how to tackle situations in which I am not instantly good. Like others have said, even as an adult I am more likely to interalize behaviour and attitudes if I see them modelled for me, or if someone does them alongside me until they are well practiced than if I get told the theory, as it were.
posted by miorita at 5:08 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

One thing that has definitely worked at our house is that we're open with mistakes we make and we don't shy away from them.

Doesn't matter what it is - from something the kids might be doing for homework to a plant in the garden that doesn't work, to something one of us cooks, everything.

The attitude of: "Well, that didn't go to plan," or "Hmmm, next time we'll do better", or (the important one) "Well, we gave it a shot and it didn't work like we wanted it too, we'll get better next time and learn from what we've done".

When it comes to school work or homework, we praise the effort that is put in. And if there's a mistake - we'll we note that there is one but at the same time emphasise that the mistake isn't the end of the world and that we make the effort, learn from it, and then go again.

It is vital to praise the effort, the process and the logic behind it even more so than the end result. The effort and process can be refined to bring about good results, but without the effort and process, there isn't a result.

Doesn't mean that if the answers are always wrong that we ignore them. But most of the time, the effort can be easily refined to ensure the answers are far better, far closer to "correct" and far more positive.
posted by chris88 at 11:39 PM on September 8, 2016

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