Promote Competency By Using Everyday Experience
Category : Parenting
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A year -old child does not care how many times he or she falls down when it comes to learning to walk. Most parents get as big a kick out of the persistent falling and standing up again as they do the big moment and the first unsteady step is taken. And before long, that child is running.

As we get a little older, ego begins to sabotage our learning processes. We get hung up on presenting a good image at any cost, and we do not want others to be aware of our capacity to “fall down” during the learning process.  This is particularly true of people who have a “fixed” concept of what creates success (the idea that your success is limited or fixed by the talents you do or don’t have).

Typically, something like this happens:

    * When parents say, “you are brilliant,” children hear, “to get praise, I have to be right.”
    * When parents say, “You got them all right,” children think, “I better not bring home the math test I got 52% on”.

How Can Parents Cultivate a Culture that Promotes Competency?

The research of Carol Dweck, discussed in the last post, breaks it down to two simple tasks:

   1. Encourage growth by nurturing the desire to keep trying.Competency is built by learning new skills and becoming better at the skills one already has.

   2. Promote healthy attitudes about failure. Failure can be an opportunity to show our metal—it requires courage, wisdom, persistence and transcendence—all shining virtues. Not only does failure provide information about what does not work, it is also promotes character development.

There are many paths to encouraging competency.  Life is a laboratory, and opportunities for teaching attitudes that promote competency occur without warning.  Parents can prepare themselves to teach the skills by first by looking objectively at their own attitudes about failure and success. Did you make a bad decision today? Talk about it, and what you learned from it.  Did you achieve something that took a lot of work?  Talk to your children about how you did it. Is there something going on in your life that hurts your ego?  Show your children how you will deal with it in a healthy way. You might even listen to their ideas about how to deal with it effectively.

In addition to using one’s own experiences, parents can draw from the lives of people they know. Dweck’s book on Mindset is replete with stories about people we all know through the media who became successful by persistence and dealing with failure in healthy ways.  For example—did you know Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, was cut from the high school basketball team because he did not show adequate skill?  His mother used it as an opportunity to teach the importance of “discipline”—developing mastery through focused practice.

Family conflict provides great opportunities to teach attitudes that promote competency. Conflict quickly identifies the thinking style of its participants. After the conflict is over, debrief and give people an opportunity to understand each other’s points of view.  Examine your own thinking out loud, and how maybe thinking differently about it might have led to a better outcome.

Collect stories, as a family, of people who achieved competency by accepting the need to keep trying in spite of failure. Look for “success stories” on the internet.  Collect quotes.  Cut out articles from the newspaper about people who persisted until they had a good outcome. Invite people over for dinner who have faced and overcome challenges in their lives.
Rather than give your children advice on how to solve their problems, ask what their plan is.  Also ask them why they have chosen that particular plan.  Then just wait to see what happens—it may provide a good opportunity to discuss what can be learned from failure and success.

Finally, there are many times when children are brilliant.  These are times to give feedback not about being brilliant, but about what they did to render such an amazing performance.
“You practiced that piano piece over and over until you could play it with your eyes closed.  I’m so proud of your good work.”

“Your brother was making a lot of noise you and you didn’t even get angry.  You just kept focused on your homework.”

“I like how you cheered for your teammates, even when they were so frustrated that they had difficulty playing well.  They must be glad you are on their team, just as I am glad you are on my team.”