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#1 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 06:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm just about to start looking into this topic.

 

Before I get digging too deep, I thought I'd check in and see if anyone has any articles on the subject they love and would recommend.

 

I'm wanting to know how to instill (if you can) grit or "stick-to-itness" in children. That drive to get through something because there will be something great on the other side.


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#2 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 08:06 AM
 
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This is something I've thought a lot about over the years, and given that my eldest will be 19 before long, that's a lot of years. I haven't found a lot written that looks at this issue philosophically and practically -- at least not from the perspective of a consensual-living style of family management and homeschooling. I've written on my blog about it, with this post probably being the most complete fleshing out of my thoughts. I wrote it more than five years ago but I think I still believe it all, and I think it has worked. My kids have amazing work ethics and are always being complimented for this.

 

In a nutshell I think it's important to engineer children's lives so that they have at least one thing they're involved in that does not produce instant gratification but is fun, meaningful to them, produces gradual long-term progress and is vigorously supported by family and/or community so that it stays meaningful. It might be raising livestock, or participating in gymnastics or dance, or learning the piano, or learning martial arts. For my kids it was especially learning to play violin, viola and piano. 

 

It also helps, I think, if your family life is light on instant-gratification convenience-related habits like DVRs, convenience foods and trips to the corner store. Simple things like cooking from scratch and in bulk, growing a kitchen garden, keeping your child in the loop about the car payments, participating in a CSA, walking places rather than always driving ... those all build an appreciation of the many small steps that lead to longer-term accomplishments.

 

I think that teaching empathy and grit are the two big jobs a parent has. I'm amazed that there isn't more written about both of them. 

 

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#3 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 08:06 AM
 
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I think there is much benefit in knowing when something is too difficult and should be set aside for a later time. Kids frequently want to quit when something is difficult. Some parents push them to keep at it and others let them quit, honoring that they find it difficult and frustrating. Sometimes those things are no longer difficult when the child tries them again because they've matured. Also, when they are more mature, they are less easily frustrated and can see the long term benefits more easily.

 

For instance, my ds was a very late reader. We could have worked and worked on reading and he would have learned to read with much time and effort. But we did nothing outside of our regular living and he learned to read with minimal frustration and minimal effort.

 

Of course, I see how practicing certain things can be beneficial. But I don't know how much you can encourage kids to practice and work through things without negative effects. I think that is something that needs to come from within and is partially dependent on the individual's temperament. And I don't think knowing when to quit or take a break is as valued as it should be:-)

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#4 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 08:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I appreciate both of those thoughts.

 

We practise this skill with finances and food frequently. What makes me want to learn more is that my 7 year old often gets interested in things, then something happens which he doesn't like then wants to quit (before doing so we brainstorm some strategies to help him deal with the problem...often boredom, but generally I don't like to force something upon him that truly makes him miserable). Maybe we need some baby steps to delayed gratification...not big drawn-out projects, but one-week, organically-derrived type stuff.

 

And to be honest, he posesses so many qualities similar to my BIL that make the worry. He's so smart, and so capable, but often chooses the helplessness approach to things. I feel like making him pull himself up by the boot straps, suck it up, problem solve, follow-through, and make it work (which DH and I are both like). Sometimes I insist he buck up and get something done on his own, and other times I choose not to be the stubborn one and just finish one miniscule task so we can get on to what's important.

 

I have to remind myself sometimes that he's only 7, his needs are valid (when they're truly needs, not persistent laziness), and if I can meet those needs now hopefully he can harness all that greatness and "get it" and it put it to use in a positive endeavour.


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#5 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 08:23 AM
 
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Oftentimes perfectionism can be mistaken for disinterest or laziness.

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#6 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 08:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This is SO TRUE!! DS1 is definitely a perfectionist.

 

....with that in mind, how does one deal with perfectionism?


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#7 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 08:44 AM
 
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My ds is a bit of a perfectionist. And he is very sensitive so if anyone corrects him or makes a suggestion for improvement, he'll quit. Getting older has helped. He didn't want to brush his own teeth until he was 10 because he had so many cavities from a young age and the dentists always harped on brushing and flossing that ds didn't want the responsibility. Didn't want them being able to blame him. So I brushed and flossed his teeth every night until he suddenly wanted to do it himself. It's tricky.


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#8 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 09:20 AM
 
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Like moominmamma said, it's good to have one thing they enjoy, doesn't provide instant gratification, and they can see improvement over time (or I should say that the gratification is from the process as well as the mastery).  For dd this is gymnastics and riding lessons.  She loves them so much, she is highly motivated to go to classes and keep trying.  It took her a year to get a back hip circle on the bars (class once/wk).  She had just started doing her back hand springs when the coach left and she has been struggling with them ever since.  But she doesn't seem outwardly frustrated.  She loves trying to figure the skills out almost as much as she enjoys getting them.  This from a nearly 8yo girl who, until not even a year ago,  rarely picked up a pencil or pen for more than a minute because of the frustrations of controlling them.  She won't sew for the same reason, or knit.  She gets frustrated with sounding words out, even though she is a decent reader for her age.  The vagaries of English are discouraging for a perfectionist.

 

In gym and in the arena, her perfectionism drives her to keep going and get it right.  Outside of those places, the same perfectionism causes her to set things down in a huff, or avoid it entirely.  But now she has 2 years of gymnastics and almost one year of riding to look to.  Partly, it's a matter of connecting those experiences and what she learns from them to other areas.  Partly, it's a matter of waiting until development has caught up with her ideas.  

 

She's my oldest, so I don't have the benefit of long experience to see how this all turns out, but yesterday dd was writing lists of words--spelling test style--and we were brainstorming 3-letter words for her to spell while I made dinner.  I am thrilled, both for her writing and her spelling (we've been watching a lot of the old Electric Company recently!) and I'm glad I had the patience to wait.

 

ETA:  There is something magical about working with horses.  Our instructor is a certified riding therapist, and getting kids on horses is her passion.  Amazing.  She has allowed us to share one lesson every other week.  


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#9 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 09:37 AM
 
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Originally Posted by eirual View Post

This is SO TRUE!! DS1 is definitely a perfectionist.

 

....with that in mind, how does one deal with perfectionism?

 

Ah yes, my first response was coloured by my experience: my eldest two are extreme perfectionists. I often saw them stuck in a form of perfection paralysis, wanting something that I knew was within their grasp developmentally but unwilling to grapple with the steps required along the way to mastery because they knew they weren't assured immediate complete mastery. Because I saw this tendency in them, I did choose a couple of areas to work through this with them. Ds, for example: at age 3 he wanted to learn to play violin like his older sister and most of the children he knew (I teach Suzuki violin, and most of his friends at the time were my students). But he didn't want to start lessons, because he knew it would be hard at first, and he wouldn't be able to play what those other kids could play for a while. So he said "I'll start when I'm four." After his 4th birthday he said "Actually, when I'm 5." After his 5th birthday, he said "Actually, I'll wait until I'm 6." But at that point I said no, I knew he wanted to learn, and I was going to help him do so. I pushed a little, I supported and nurtured a lot. But only because I knew he could learn and wanted to learn, and it was only fear of not having instant mastery that was getting in the way -- and this was a pattern I saw playing out in the rest of his life, with soccer, and math, and shoelaces, and handwriting and all sorts of things. So he did start violin, and enjoyed it. There were moments of frustration along the way, to be sure. But he with my help and support he was helped over the first small humps, and then over larger humps, and began to internalize ways of helping himself over humps ... and before too long he began to apply those lessons on his own, not only within the context of violin learning but in other areas of his life.

 

The support I gave him was clear expectations of daily work, a lot of creative dressing up of the necessary work in fun and games and various forms of documentation that allowed him to see and appreciate his success as it accrued. I wasn't dishonest about the work: I didn't try to pretend it wasn't about learning the violin, but I gave him fun ways of doing it. We logged his work in various ways to give him ways to see the work he was doing even if he didn't naturally appreciate the way in which he was improving and getting closer to mastery of the instrument: we built charts, we made stacks of pennies for repetitions, we played customized snakes & ladders games to introduce fun elements of chance, we shot short videos of his violin playing from the earliest stages so that he could look back a month or two or six later and see how far he had come, we interjected silliness, we made use of props and puppets and silly voices. Gradually I discovered that the most important thing I could do to ensure his willingness to continue was to do whatever was necessary to end each work session with a smile. That sometimes met stopping the instant something went really well, even when I was very tempted to try and capitalize immediately on that success, or to finish up what was on my mental list for the day. 

 

Perfectionists tend to be quite bright, since it's their ability to appreciate the width of their competence gap (between where they're at and where they want to be) that fuels their perfectionism. And they tend to learn a lot by observation and contemplation, since they prefer that their first attempts be as successful as possible. I think it can be helpful to allow them a lot of opportunity to observe, and then perhaps to rehearse their skills in private before trying them out. (When my ds began doing aikido, he watched three or four classes first, and came home and tried out a lot of what he had seen in his bedroom, and then agreed to join a class.) Sometimes it helps to wait until they have more maturity and the learning process is likely to be accelerated, but it can be a delicate balance: waiting can lead to its own sort of frustration, and a self-fulfilling sense of failure as one's friends and siblings enjoy more and more success and the competence gap gets even larger. So there are parental judgement calls involved. Eventually even bright perfectionists need to be able to make friends with mistakes and learn to weather periods of relative incompetence. Life's simply more enjoyable if you're not held hostage by your fear of failure. 

 

A couple of summers ago my eldest dd was away at a university campus getting some intensive orchestral training. One evening she walked through one of the residence lounges and discovered that there was a swing dance workshop going on. A few of her friends were involved in it and they yelled at her to join. It was totally outside her experience and her comfort zone, but she was able to join in "even though I totally sucked at it at first," she said. She laughed at herself, and laughed with her friends, and found she could enjoy what they were all doing even in the midst of bumling around. She had loved swing music for a long time, so having the opportunity to learn swing dance was awesome. As the summer went on they all got quite good, and actually performed at one point. But more importantly, she really really enjoyed herself all along the journey. And this was the kid who when young had taken two years to open her mouth and at piano lessons to say even a single word, for fear of answering a question wrong or otherwise embarrassing herself. I'm so happy that she has reached a point where making a mistake or being less than totally competent is no longer a mortifying situation that shuts her enjoyment down completely. Some kids need help getting through that anxiety, and I think in her case and her brother's it was really good that we worked on that consistently over the years.

 

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#10 of 42 Old 12-07-2012, 10:12 AM
 
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For my ds, whether the perfectionism is a problem depends on the situation. He'll grin and say "I'm such a newb at this. I really suck!" while playing online multiplayer computer games. He has never been competitive with them or overly concerned with scores. I feel like he is good with delayed gratification, in general. I figure all that will translate into other things as he gets older. It really is a judgment call with when to nudge a kid and when to just sit back and let things run their course. Kids are so different, even all the perfectionist ones.


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#11 of 42 Old 12-08-2012, 03:11 AM
 
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Like Miranda and SweetSilver, I have also picked a couple of things my kids enjoy.  I kind of arranged them with the idea of helping my kids learn to work hard, focus and stick through a project.  I noticed early on that both my kids enjoy drawing.  So I try to help them learn other intangible and tangible skills through drawing.  For example, we never do handwriting but my oldest writes well enough (in terms of reproducing the letters).  I credit that to all the drawing he has done so far.  There is also a certain level of focus and determination that has to be there in order to finish a drawing.  They don't just draw their own stuff where anything goes.  They draw something predetermined, therefore mistakes along the way are many and they have had to learn to use the eraser a lot.  And paying attention to detail is important.  Sometimes there is frustration, especially for the younger one who is only 4.5 but the desire to keep up with her brother is so strong that there were times she worked through tears.  She was quiet proud of the end result too.  

 

Both of them go to an art studio once a week where they work in various mediums (clay, cardboard, black against white press printing, line drawing and recently water color and oil painting etc).  There is a lot going on and at the end of the session, for the oldest one there is usually nothing to take home because he is working on a project level.  For the younger ones, they let them take at least one thing home. Both my children work really hard at the studio.  They also take another art class, this time, drawing once a week.  It is mixed age and the younger one has to keep up with her brother on the same assignment.  He helps her a lot and she gives it her best shots.  

 

In addition, Taekowndo classes for the oldest teach him a certain level of focus and discipline.  The class he goes to is pretty traditional and strict in practice.  He goes twice a week.  Once in a while, he doesn't want to go because he wants to do something else.  But I remind him how much he actually enjoys it after he gets there.  I also tell him it is a commitment and we need to honor it.  In general, he has been really good about going and doing his best.  

 

I kind of feel like laying out these foundational life skills is more important than actual academic ones right now while my kiddos are young.  Learning how to learn is important.  Strangely enough, I feel non-academic activities such as drawing, dance, kung fu give kids the experience of learning concrete and clearly evidenced skills.  They can see how far they have come along more easily.  Their accomplishment is clearer.  They say I can now draw a rabbit or stand on one toe or whatever and show it off to others.  They take pride in their work.  

 

This thread is interesting.  I hope to hear from other Mamas.  

 

E.

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#12 of 42 Old 12-08-2012, 04:01 AM
 
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My kids are too young for this advice but it sounds like it written for me. I've struggled with terrible perfectionism. Thanks for the tips on baby steps. smile.gif

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#13 of 42 Old 12-08-2012, 07:02 AM
 
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For a 7 year old, I would probably do two things: I would be sure to comment on how much easier some skill has become for him over the last year (or whatever time period) so that he can see how practice helps, and that things that used to be difficult can become easier with time and effort.  The other thing I do, especially when I am concerned about something that I am kind of emotional about (as you seem to be about this, since you're casting him as "like your BIL" who seems to bug you), is look at myself and see if I am modeling the behavior I want to see.  Adults rarely push themselves to learn skills in the wide range we expect children to work.  Adults often decide "I'm not good at ____" and stop trying to do whole categories of activities.  I would encourage you to consider what skill you might work on that is well outside your comfort zone, and work on it.  

 

When my first two kids were struggling with writing, I started teaching myself machining, and it gave me a lot more sympathy for precisely how difficult writing is, especially for a perfectionist.  Perfectionists see the flaws in everything they do, and also how effortlessly adults and older kids can perform these tasks they're struggling with, and it's emotionally challenging to cope with what they see as their own failure.  And then adults tend to brush off the difficulties because we don't remember what it was like.  Neither how hard it is to learn to write nor how hard it is to work through being bad at something everyone else seems to do well.

 

FWIW, when I am learning something new in front of my kids, they seem to be more inclined to take risks too.  

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#14 of 42 Old 12-08-2012, 08:49 AM
 
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FWIW, when I am learning something new in front of my kids, they seem to be more inclined to take risks too.  

Yes.  

 

Recently, it has been learning origami alongside my girls.  They do see that some of it comes more easily than for them, but they also see me struggle with a lot of it, too.  I struggle with spatial visualization, perhaps because of a lifetime of lack of practice.  It's helpful, though, from the girls' perspective to see it.  

 

I've noticed this before with reading.  Pronouncing those dinosaur names can be frustratingly difficult!  


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#15 of 42 Old 12-08-2012, 09:58 AM
 
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Responding to the original post and question.

One way to *kill* a stick-to-it attitude is to interrupt, minimize, or otherwise derail the child's natural desire to complete a child task. That means completing the Lego plane, see the end of the movie, finish the book, whatever is important. So unless the there is a *very* good reason to deny the opportunity to complete childish projects when they are young, let them finish. As they get older, the choices of what is important will change, and you should just keep supporting them.

In other words, the trait is already there, just don't destroy it. Look for it, and nurture it instead.
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#16 of 42 Old 12-08-2012, 10:01 AM
 
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Great thread!  I came across this article in a 2007 Stanford Alum magazine in a doctor's office a couple years ago.  eyesroll.gif Anyway, I really liked it and saved it.  It supports what you're talking about perfectionism here. 

 

 

http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=32124

 

"the difference between the helpless response and its opposite—the determination to master new things and surmount challenges—lay in people’s beliefs about why they had failed. People who attributed their failures to lack of ability ...  would become discouraged even in areas where they were capable. Those who thought they simply hadn’t tried hard enough, on the other hand, would be fueled by setbacks."

 

 

Quote:
Life's simply more enjoyable if you're not held hostage by your fear of failure.

 

So true. 


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#17 of 42 Old 12-08-2012, 10:18 AM
 
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I read a bit more.

As a perfectionist, I would suggest you take a step back, for a moment. When something is going badly, I frequently walk away. Then I think of a new approach and go back. I simply cannot see the option with the failure in front of me. Watch and see if your child does the same thing.
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#18 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 06:34 AM
 
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Responding to the original post and question.
One way to *kill* a stick-to-it attitude is to interrupt, minimize, or otherwise derail the child's natural desire to complete a child task. That means completing the Lego plane, see the end of the movie, finish the book, whatever is important. So unless the there is a *very* good reason to deny the opportunity to complete childish projects when they are young, let them finish. As they get older, the choices of what is important will change, and you should just keep supporting them.
In other words, the trait is already there, just don't destroy it. Look for it, and nurture it instead.

Good advice, in general! People are always waving new things in front of babies and toddlers, picking them up and relocating them with no warning when they are doing something. It always seemed rude and disrespectful to do it for no reason without noticing what the child is doing or looking at. And then people worry about their kids having short attention spans after constantly interrupting them for years. dizzy.gif


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#19 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 08:18 AM
 
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Ah yes, my first response was coloured by my experience: my eldest two are extreme perfectionists. I often saw them stuck in a form of perfection paralysis, wanting something that I knew was within their grasp developmentally but unwilling to grapple with the steps required along the way to mastery because they knew they weren't assured immediate complete mastery.

This is one of the keys.  Do they want it?  Is it meaningful to them?  Or to the parents?

 

Is it, "stick to these drills because when you are a geezer you are going to be so thankful, I promise"?  (orngtongue.gif Pardon the silliness.)

 

Or is it, like moominmamma's kids, "I see you really want this but are frustrated because to get there it's going to take some work."

 

What are we talking about?  

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If a perfectionist wants a painted scene and is living with a painter, the perfectionist may want the painter to do the painting, so that the scene will look well done. Is that really different from an adult hiring a carpenter to dobuild a custom bookcase? As adults, we sometimes choose to hire a skilled person, rather than work to master the skills ourselves. Are children so different that we can't believe they would rather have a good end result than new skills?
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#21 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 04:19 PM
 
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This is one of the keys.  Do they want it?  Is it meaningful to them?  Or to the parents?

 

Is it, "stick to these drills because when you are a geezer you are going to be so thankful, I promise"?  (orngtongue.gif Pardon the silliness.)

 

Or is it, like moominmamma's kids, "I see you really want this but are frustrated because to get there it's going to take some work."

 

What are we talking about?  

 

I guess in our house, it is all of the above.  You can want something and be frustrated with the work it takes to get there AND it can actually be good for you to do the work to get there instead of giving up and deciding you can't do it.  At least, I believe this. Life is complex, no?  I believe adults who can follow through their goals and stick to some of the stuff they need to do are better off.  So, I suppose my parenting is colored by that.   

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If a perfectionist wants a painted scene and is living with a painter, the perfectionist may want the painter to do the painting, so that the scene will look well done. Is that really different from an adult hiring a carpenter to do build a custom bookcase? As adults, we sometimes choose to hire a skilled person, rather than work to master the skills ourselves. Are children so different that we can't believe they would rather have a good end result than new skills?

 

True.  But there are basic life skills children must learn, no?  I mean, there are skills that are not required for survival (like carpentry/painting) and there are skills that are prerequisite for a good life.  At least this is how I see it.  I suppose, when it comes down to it, I don't totally buy that children/adults (people in general) can always do what they want to do and only that.  I have never seen it work that way.   

 

To get back to pek64 example about a perfectionist wanting a painted scene, there are several outcomes there.  1. Perfectionist hires someone to do it.  2.  Perfectionist does it herself.  3.  Perfectionist is happy forgoing the painted scene until s/he is able to hire someone to do it.  4. Perfectionist is unhappy because s/he can't hire someone to do the painted scene BUT wants it badly AND doesn't want to do the work to get there.  

 

The first 3 are good and fine.  The 4th can lead to a lot of unhappiness in life, IMHO.  

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Edited to correct some typos :)

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#22 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 04:28 PM
 
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I guess in our house, it is all of the above.  You can want something and be frustrated with the work it takes to get there AND it can actually be good for you to do the work to get there instead of giving up and deciding you can't do it.  At least, I believe this. Life is complex, no?  I believe adults who can follow through their goals and stick to some the stuff the need to to are better off.  So, I suppose my parenting is colored by that.   

 

 

I mean goals that kids cannot see, or don't care about (or both, actually!)  Most of the responding parents frequent the unschooling board, and our answers seem to be assuming that we are just talking about activities and skills that are desired by both parents and kids, not homeschooling assignments given by parents to a reluctant child.  The child could be reluctant not just because he's a perfectionist, but because he isn't interested, or the goals and benefits are so abstract and far off as to be meaningless.


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#23 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 05:12 PM
 
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I mean goals that kids cannot see, or don't care about (or both, actually!)  Most of the responding parents frequent the unschooling board, and our answers seem to be assuming that we are just talking about activities and skills that are desired by both parents and kids, not homeschooling assignments given by parents to a reluctant child.  The child could be reluctant not just because he's a perfectionist, but because he isn't interested, or the goals and benefits are so abstract and far off as to be meaningless.

 

And what I am saying is, a child could express a desire in learning a particular skill but be reluctant to do the work to get to a place where he learns the skill because he doesn't think he can.  Does that make sense?  I am typing on tiny keyboard so excuse my typos.  

 

So in this case, the activity is child desired but child doesn't think he can do it.  Showing this child that he could actually do it if he tires is valuable, I think.  But maybe that makes me a non-unschooler.

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#24 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 05:27 PM
 
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You're OK, Emaye.  I wasn't trying to contradict what you were saying, and I understand what you wanted to say.  I was trying to differentiate between what we are all talking about:

 

Quote:
a desire in learning a particular skill but be reluctant to do the work 

 

and a situation where there is no desire to learn a skill (like, oh, times tables) or what learning the skill or skills can lead to (say, higher math).  I see the occasional kid in gymnastics, and you can tell who doesn't really want to be there.  They are not interested in the joy of eventually doing a back hand spring, and they are not motivated to do the work.  The class was their parent's idea, and they do it to please them (?)  and perhaps the parents have some notion that there is a greater good for continuing (which doesn't happen that often in this particular case because gymnastics is so expensive!) and that good might become apparent some time in the future, or so the parents hope?

 

So, with all us unschoolers answering generic questions about "grit" and perfectionism, I wonder whether our speaking about an:

 

 

Quote:
 activity [that] is child desired but child doesn't think he can do it

is a bit limited to the issue as a whole.  

 

But is that what's at issue?  If this were the USing forum, I would automatically assume that was.  But perhaps there is some aspect that we are missing because we wouldn't be talking about activities that take more than a little push.  

 

OP, is there something we are missing here?  Is this issue about the kinds of activities and skills we are talking about?  

 

Oh, please tell me I making some sense, here!  I might be making something out of nothing.


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#25 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 06:08 PM
 
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If a perfectionist wants a painted scene and is living with a painter, the perfectionist may want the painter to do the painting, so that the scene will look well done. Is that really different from an adult hiring a carpenter to dobuild a custom bookcase? As adults, we sometimes choose to hire a skilled person, rather than work to master the skills ourselves. Are children so different that we can't believe they would rather have a good end result than new skills?

 

This is not what I meant when I spoke of my kids wanting something and having trouble getting past the need to put in some work or skill-building to get it. I was speaking largely of them wanting competence, the ability to create something, or some sort of experience. For instance: wanting to play soccer, to be part of an aikido class, to be able to play the Vivaldi a minor violin concerto, or do a back walkover, or whatever. I mean, if a child wants to be able to hear the Vivaldi a minor or see a beautiful painting, there are many instant gratification ways of doing so. What tends to happen with my perfectionists, though, is that they see a beautiful painting, or hear someone else play the Vivaldi concerto, and that's when they say "I want to be able to do that." It's not that they want the object that has inspired them, it's that they want to be able to create it. I believe that this is a natural human urge: to create, to express, to become capable oneself. I certainly see a lot of that urge in my kids. And that's where their perfectionism has tended to be problematic.

 

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#26 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 08:28 PM
 
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This is not what I meant when I spoke of my kids wanting something and having trouble getting past the need to put in some work or skill-building to get it. I was speaking largely of them wanting competence, the ability to create something, or some sort of experience. For instance: wanting to play soccer, to be part of an aikido class, to be able to play the Vivaldi a minor violin concerto, or do a back walkover, or whatever. I mean, if a child wants to be able to hear the Vivaldi a minor or see a beautiful painting, there are many instant gratification ways of doing so. What tends to happen with my perfectionists, though, is that they see a beautiful painting, or hear someone else play the Vivaldi concerto, and that's when they say "I want to be able to do that." It's not that they want the object that has inspired them, it's that they want to be able to create it. I believe that this is a natural human urge: to create, to express, to become capable oneself. I certainly see a lot of that urge in my kids. And that's where their perfectionism has tended to be problematic.

 

Miranda

 

A couple of years ago, we got a magnetic building set for my kids.  With it came a manual.  My Ds saw a picture of a cube that he wanted to make.  It required a lot of fine motor skills to do it successfully.  I suggested he try the easier pieces first.  He refused and began working on the cube.  He sat and began working on it but it was failure after failure.  He was very upset but continued working with it.  He refused my help.  He ordered his sister and I to get out of the room.  He cried.  

 

In the end, he did it and I have a picture of him holding the cube, his tear streaken face graced by a giant smile.  

 

My insitinict, when he was getting frustrated was either to help or to stop him and ask him to do something easier.  It was really difficult to watch him struggle.  In the end, I just left the room with his sister because I could not handle the tension.  

 

He was so happy with his accomplishment and it was great to see him achieve what he wanted.  

 

Both my kids are the same with drawing.  They want to be able to make the stuff.  They derive pleasure from the process of the work itself.  I think it is fantastic.  The by product of helping them along in their pursuit I think is an ability to recognize that they can actually learn to do things they want to do.  That the process of learning needs committment, focus, and an ablity to deal with failed attempts.  That something that looks really complex can be broken down into smaller tasks.  That the process of deconstruction leads to understanding ... etc.  

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But is that what's at issue?  If this were the USing forum, I would automatically assume that was.  But perhaps there is some aspect that we are missing because we wouldn't be talking about activities that take more than a little push.  

 

OP, is there something we are missing here?  Is this issue about the kinds of activities and skills we are talking about?  

 

Oh, please tell me I making some sense, here!  I might be making something out of nothing.

 

Oh! This is NOT the unschooling forum?!  LOL.  Your question to the OP is very much timely.  I saw you, Miranda, 4evermom and Pek and I just assumed... Sorry OP.

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#27 of 42 Old 12-09-2012, 09:52 PM
 
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With the example of the cube, it sounds as though the child wanted very much to figure it out alone. I can remember similar situations, myself as a child. Then, there were other times when I wanted either a good outcome and no one would do it for me, because I had to learn, or would give me tips or advice, because I needed to learn how to figure things out for myself. All three situations were frustrating. My point is that parents should listen to what the child wants in the *current* situation, and respond accordingly as much as possible.

I also agree that knowing a bit more about the particulars would help.
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#28 of 42 Old 12-10-2012, 06:44 AM
 
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Oh! This is NOT the unschooling forum?!  LOL.  Your question to the OP is very much timely.  I saw you, Miranda, 4evermom and Pek and I just assumed... Sorry OP.

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#29 of 42 Old 12-10-2012, 07:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This thread is officially confusing! lol I don't want to add more situational questions or examples to muddle things further.

 

Everyone's brought up good points though and I appreciate the discussion. SweetSilver, my original question is just a general question for strategies to encourage children to develop some grit or drive and not assume they are helpless and are to just accept what the world throws at them and throw their hands up in response.

 

I'm thinking the zone of proximal development would come into play here (http://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html). Finding that "sweet spot" that's just challenging enough to be learning. Not so coddled that everything's always easy, not so tough that a task becomes so overwhelming you may as well give up, but providing challenges that are just right so that there's learning and increasing independence.


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#30 of 42 Old 12-10-2012, 07:59 AM
 
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In the end, he did it and I have a picture of him holding the cube, his tear streaken face graced by a giant smile.  

 

So sweet!

 

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With the example of the cube, it sounds as though the child wanted very much to figure it out alone. I can remember similar situations, myself as a child. Then, there were other times when I wanted either a good outcome and no one would do it for me, because I had to learn, or would give me tips or advice, because I needed to learn how to figure things out for myself. All three situations were frustrating. My point is that parents should listen to what the child wants in the *current* situation, and respond accordingly as much as possible.
I also agree that knowing a bit more about the particulars would help.

For me, it would be because the frustration is so overwhelming but the task so compelling, I cannot process anything else.  People, noises, touch, become entirely overwhelming.  I would need the solitude to stay focussed on the task or else the frustration would completely overwhelm me.  So, alone, yes, but not just because I wanted to do it by myself.  I *needed* to be by myself or I would explode.

 

eirual, thanks for popping back in.


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