Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Setting them up for success

As a parent, one of my main goals in life is to set my children up for success--not to give it to them easily, but to provide them with the tools and skills necessary to find success on their own. How do I do that? Well...

I don't rightly know.

But I'm trying, and for now that means having lots of long conversations on the phone with my mom filed under the heading: What are you supposed to do when your child does (insert bad behavior here)?!?

The last time we talked, she said, "Just read. Read a lot of parenting books. Then maybe one day when you're at your wit's end, you'll remember one brilliant thing from a book to try."

Isn't she smart? Diligently, I followed her advice and am now halfway through my first book. So far I'm learning lots of interesting things that I can put into practice with Carter. And perhaps the best result of reading the book is the simple fact that I'm consciously thinking about my parenting on a daily basis rather than just moving by instinct or emotion.

One of the hardest recommendations in the book? No TV for kids under the age of 2. (Not even The Real Housewives of Orange County on in the background while he plays with trucks or eats his boogers.)  Ouch. That really cramps my style.

Not as hard, but still in the top ten? Praise your child's efforts rather than their results. This one is tricky. Researchers found that children who were constantly told "You made an 'A' on that test! You're so smart. Great job!" were at risk of falling apart at the first sign of a challenge. On the other hand, children who were told "Wow, I know you worked on that for a long time. Great job finishing even though it was hard," were much more likely to rise to the occasion and succeed when difficult problems arose. This was especially true in math. Kids in the 'praised for results' group completed 50% fewer difficult problems than kids in the 'praised for effort' group.

What does this equate to in the parenting of a toddler? Well, at my house it looks like this:

Me: Carter, this is a yellow cup. Can you say cup?
Carter: Cup!
Me: You're so sm--(crap), umm...yes! Great!  And what color is the cup?
C: (earnestly) Blue.
Me: No, but good try. What color is the cup?
Me: No. What color is the YELLOW cup?
C: (emphatically) Bluuuuuuuue.
Me: Proud of you for trying, buddy. Mommy needs to go read some more of her book now. Sit here and watch Real Housewives for a little bit.

I don't think I'm doing it right. Ha!