Last week I wrote about ‘praise’ - this week, I’d like to deal with it’s cousin ‘expectation’.
That voice that comes from inside us, telling us not to even bother trying, because we’re just no good at it; telling us we are and always have been hopeless at maths, spelling, art or whatever - that voice came from somewhere.
I bet that if you relate to that, you also know where and when that voice started for you. You know which teacher told you you couldn’t draw, which test you failed or what event exposed your weakness.
I’ve worked with children of primary school age who are so used to being told off (I suspect at home as well as in class) that you can see their negative self-image already taking a firm hold - despite their youth. They are learning to write themselves off as no-hopers, always in trouble, no prospects. It’s even more prevalent in secondary, and it can be a difficult pattern to break.
I do believe that (and there is research to back this up) if you make it clear that you expect great things of children and young people, they will be much more likely to rise to that expectation. There are aspirational seeds in all of us, and each one will stand a chance of growing until that particular hope or dream is dashed.
However in the effort to nurture our children by letting them know that we believe in the best of them, we must be careful not to lay on too much pressure. If we become like the father whose response to his little girl’s excitement at coming second in class is to coldly demand, “Come and tell me when you come top”, then we may inadvertently be engendering exactly the opposite reaction to the increased striving and self-belief we were hoping for.
It can be a tricky balancing act, but it becomes easier when we apply the secret weapon that has the power to save us all from the potentially detrimental effects of the stress of perfectionism: love.
Do you think you received enough praise as a child? Or maybe you received too much? Do you think you praise your children enough? Or too much? Do you see any connection between your own experience regarding praise as a child and how you behave now as an adult?
I read a great many articles concerning our communications with children, and it’s surprising how at any given time, a common theme will rise to the surface. Recently that theme seems to have been praise.
I’m not much of a one for televisual talent competitions, but I watch them now and again (so shoot me!). There always seems to be a lot of talk about confidence from the competitors, and here as in day to day life, it is always viewed as a positive thing. However, I think something vital is being missed.
Following on from last week’s blogpost, I’d like to draw your attention to a speech given by Jack Ma at the World Economic Forum earlier this year.
Jack (also known as Ma Yun) is one of China’s most successful, powerful, wealthy and philanthropic business leaders who lectures widely about how to, in his own words, “help more people to make healthy money, 'sustainable money,' money that is not only good for themselves but also good for the society. That's the transformation we are aiming to make.”
Recently, the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) released a statement criticising the current education system in the UK for being too focussed on testing, results and tables. The result of this, they claim, is that children are not learning the skills that are required of them by the world of work.