Tag Archives: parenting

On children and parents – more from the Contented Crafter

In a previous guest post Pauline King, The Contented Crafter shared her Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school. The richness of the discussion that ensued, including additional clarifying comments from Pauline, made for interesting reading. One thing I have found consistent throughout life is that everyone has an opinion about education and schools. However, there is great diversity in the opinions held. I love to hear them all for the opportunity they provide for clarifying my own thinking.

In this second guest post Pauline shares some of her wisdom about children and parenting. Pauline and I share much of the same philosophy and background knowledge and are aware that some statements may require clarification out of that shared context. We therefore welcome your responses and look forward to the discussion that these thoughts may instigate.

What do you think is the most important thing for parents to understand about their children? What advice would you love to give every new parent?

I seriously think every parent should read and study Khalil Gibran’s chapter about Children in his poem ‘The Prophet’.  Children are not just short adults; they are not there to fulfil a parents dreams [though they may]. 

Kahlil Gibran Children(Note: This is just a short extract of Gibran’s words about children. You can read them in full here)

Children need to be allowed to enjoy their childhood, let them play, let them dream, let them imagine.  Very little ones learn through imitation and play so be careful what you model for them. 

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Send them into formal learning when they reach their seventh year.  But let that learning proceed through imagination, through practical practise and first-hand experience.  Let the education content grow and deepen as the child matures.  Don’t just stuff stuff into their heads because you think it’s a good idea or something awful has happened in the world. 

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Don’t discuss adult issues with young children.  Keep them safe and secure while their bodies and brains mature.  Give them time to grow up. 

Parents study your child and all other children.  Raising children is not a competition.  It is not a case of keeping your child safe and clean and out of your way while you are busy.  Think more of ‘The Waltons’ and let each child have a task to perform to help the family.  Teach them all how to help prepare meals, set tables, make beds and other chores that need to be done. 

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Start to think less about how clever [or not] your child is, but what talents and attributes your child is exhibiting.  Don’t stream, let them all do everything and let everyone have something they are good at and see there is something that someone else is better at – because that is the way of the world and we all have contribution to make and our lessons to learn.  Understand that just as your child is special, all children are special. Understanding this is the first step in making a wholesome community.

Don’t be fearful of your child hurting themselves.  As a wise man recently said ‘the purpose of our lives is not to arrive safely at our death!’ 

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My personal opinion is that the increase in a society that reveres ‘health and safety’ has been responsible for the rise of lost teenagers, those aimless, disinterested kids who suffer from low self-esteem, drinking and drug taking and mindless vandalism.  Take your older kids camping, hiking, abseiling.  Do it with them and have lots of fun.  Give them physical challenges and the ability and skills to succeed in them.  It really is true that the family who plays together, stays together.

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But mostly love and respect your child.  Keep them safe when they are small and slowly teach and release them as they grow older.  Feed them good food, positivity and encouragement and watch them blossom into the people they were born to be.

Give them time and lots of your time.  They don’t need stuff and they don’t need to keep up with the Joneses.  They just need you.

In responding to a previous post you said that you could write a post-length comment about the wisdom of children. Could you share a few ideas about that here. We might come back to that longer post in the future, if you are willing.

Observe your children, listen to them, know they are their own little being and as such bring their own personality and gifts into the world.  Watch how they approach life and activities and you will see they have come with a wisdom about themselves and their purpose that we, the adults, may not be privy to.  This is the wisdom of childhood and we, as parents and teachers, are really beholden to respect this and not try to ‘change’ the child to suit us, society or anything else. 

Most teachers know that most children reach similar developmental points at around the same time.  There is a great wisdom in this and when we become aware of it, it can help us understand what they are ready for in terms of learning, activities and life in general. 

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All of this Norah, is part and parcel of the training of a Steiner Teacher – understanding child development is the open secret that drives the curriculum. 

Wow! Thank you, Pauline, for sharing your wisdom. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is one of my favourite books and his passage about children is never far from my mind. Your words in this post reflect very much the words and intent of his. You have given us much to think upon, and I appreciate it, as I’m sure the readers do too.

Connect with Pauline on Twitter or on her blog The Contented Crafter where you can also check out her delightful Gift Shop

 Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Life — A “choose your own” adventure?

This morning Hub mentioned a book he had read about and asked if I had heard of the author Wayne Dyer. “Of course,” I replied and proceeded to explain that I had read many of Dyer’s books, had gone to a seminar to hear him speak and had been swept off my feet by accompanying speaker Deepak Chopra. I mentioned that a favourite book of his was marked now by a gap on my shelves, a phenomena recently mentioned by both Caroline Lodge, who blogs at book word and talked about missing books, and Anne Goodwin, who blogs at annethology and talked about the dilemma of lending books.

Wayne Dyer

I think there may be more than one missing from my self!

Deepak Chopra

I think. looking at these titles, its time for some re-reading!

This favourite book, read and lent many times, What Do You Really Want for Your Children? was very influential in shaping the way I parented and taught. It is one of a few books that I read and re-read with a highlighter and sticky notes. There was much in it for me to get my head around. While I am unable to now refer to it for its wisdom, one of the things that I remember most was a hypothetical letter from a child thanking parents for the way they had parented. I considered it a letter any parent would love to receive, personalised of course.

As often happens, Hub got the long (love) story as it tumbled out in a torrent of reminiscences and of joys in discovering inspiring minds. When I paused long enough to take a breath, I remembered to ask about the book to which he referred. He said it was about the recollections of past lives as told by young children, of children choosing their parents and of being in heaven.  Later research informs me that the book is Memories of Heaven, subtitledChildren’s astounding recollections of the time before they came to Earth.

I had previously, many years ago, heard the suggestion that children choose their parents. I like to think (though don’t believe) that my children chose me, and often thank them for doing so. They have taught me a lot about life. I am a strong believer in the wisdom of young children: if we are attentive and take the time to observe and listen, we can learn much from them. Sometimes it seems they enter the world with wisdom but “we” do our best to obliterate it as quickly as we can.

As it is wont to do, my thinking followed a circuitous path with if, buts, maybes and questions. Children choosing parents may be a nice idea; but what of the children living in poverty, with famine, and in war-torn areas? Why would anyone choose those conditions?

That question led me through my basic understanding of the Buddhist philosophy in relation to karma and rebirth. I have read a few books on the subject but don’t profess to have any real knowledge. I don’t like to think that these situations may be endured as the result of bad karma from a previous life, and am not even sure if they would be viewed that way in Buddhist thinking. Perhaps these situations could be an improvement on the previous, a step to the next? Maybe that’s not so unpleasant a thought.

Dalai LamaTibetan book of living and dying

I like the idea of improvement, of always learning, of striving for perfection and enlightenment. It is probably one of the reasons that the “yet” thinking of a growth mindset fits nicely into my philosophy. It explains why one of my favourite books (I almost wrote “of all time” – what would that say about me and my past lives?) is Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, who dedicated the book “To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all”.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

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I had always thought that being a bird would be pretty amazing with the freedom to fly above the world and look down upon its beauty. Maybe this is one reason Jonathan’s story appealed to me. Perhaps it explains the analogy of flight in my poem about education. Maybe it’s why I love to sit at an airplane’s window and marvel at the scenes below.

education-is-2

And so my thoughts meandered, drifting through clouds and pockets of time, until they were suddenly interrupted by the voice of the child next door singing, “Let it go”.

I think those three words “Let it go” may be the only ones that anyone sings along with, but the message of the song is powerful: to let go of insecurities and realise the potential within; don’t care “what they’re going to say” and acknowledge that “It’s time to see what I can do”.

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The message is not unlike that of Jonathan Seagull: to stretch beyond the limits imposed by others and their labels and to attain self-realisation. It is a journey undertaken by most thinking people, as demonstrated by the identity crisis that has befallen Sarah Brentyn who blogs at Lemon Shark. What is that if not a call for release from chains that may bind to enable the freedom for flight?

The end of a year is generally a time for reflecting on what has been achieved and what is yet to be. Perhaps it is also a time for letting go in preparation for what lies ahead.

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I hope that, as you reflect, you are happy with what you have achieved, with where you are, and with the path that lies ahead. I wish you a safe, fun and fruitful journey along the “road to find out”.

I have enjoyed your company this year and appreciate your feedback. The conversations are what keep me going, growing and learning. Thank you. I look forward to the journey continuing.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

A celebration of Australian picture books #2 – Mem Fox

I own and have given away more picture books by Mem Fox than by any other author. To say I appreciate Mem’s work would be an understatement. I currently have on my shelves twelve of her more than thirty picture book titles and two of her eight nonfiction titles.

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Her first picture book Possum Magic was published in 1983. I love the story behind this book, as much as the story itself. Mem wrote the first draft in 1978 and over the next five years it was rejected by nine publishers. When it was finally picked up by Omnibus Books she was asked to reduce it in length by two-thirds and to change the characters from mice to possums. The book is now one of Australia’s most popular with more than 3 million copies sold around the world.

You can listen to Mem read Possum Magic or some of her other books here.

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In the ten years after the publication of Possum Magic Mem published almost twenty other books. I read her autobiography Mem’s the Word (released in the US as Dear Mem Fox) not long after it was published. At the time I was in my late thirties and was thrilled to find that Mem had also been in her late thirties when her first book was published. I thought there was still hope for me. I’d certainly had enough rejections by that time to fill a rather large shoebox, so maybe I just needed a few more!

Since then Mem’s output has hardly lessened and she has another new book coming out next month. In the meantime, I’m still hoping there’s time for me!

Mem is an author, not an illustrator. The twelve picture books I own were illustrated by eight different artists. Four illustrators did two of these books each. A quick glance at the list of Mem’s books confirms the number of artists who have been engaged to illustrate her work and the variety of artistic styles used. How wonderful for the artists to have that experience, and for teachers and parents the opportunity for discussing artistic styles with children.

My reason for raising this issue of author and illustrator is that I also am not an illustrator. A number of years ago when discussing picture book authors, an acquaintance scoffed at  my praise for Mem’s work: how could she possibly consider herself a picture book author if she didn’t do the illustrations? This acquaintance, in the process of having her first picture book published, was author and illustrator. In the intervening years Mem has gone on to publish a number of books, and this acquaintance none. Okay, neither have I. Yet!

Reading magic

Another thing that Mem and I have in common is our passion for literacy and our advocacy of reading to children every day. Mem’s book Reading Magic should be placed in the hands of every new parent along with a collection of picture books. I practice what I preach by giving a bundle of these as gifts to friends with newborns. I have written about that here. As well as Reading Magic, the bundle generally includes Where is the Green Sheep? and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, among others. Nurturing a love of books and reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.

The love of reading is gift

Below is a list of the Mem Fox books on my shelves at the moment (a few have mysteriously disappeared!) but the best way to check out Mem’s books is on her website here. While you are exploring her website, there is much else of value to discover, including suggestions for writers, teachers, parents, and children as well as other interesting information. Exploring Mem’s site is the best way of finding out about her wonderful books.

Here are the ones I own, in addition to the three mentioned above (in no particular order), with links to further information about each title on Mem’s site and to information about the illustrator where possible:

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Night Noises illustrated by Terry Denton

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Just like that (Now published as Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild!) illustrated by Kilmeny Niland

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Shoes from Grandpa illustrated by Patricia Mullins

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Hattie and the Fox illustrated by Patricia Mullins

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Guess What? illustrated by Vivienne Goodman

Whoever you are.

Whoever You Are illustrated by Leslie Staub

Wombat Divine

Wombat Divine illustrated by Kerry Argent

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Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge illustrated by Julie Vivas

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Koala Lou illustrated by Pamela Lofts

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Sail Away illustrated by Pamela Lofts

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A Particular Cow illustrated by Terry Denton

 

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I hope you have found something of interest. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

 

All aboard the early learning caravan!

school cropped

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills described a century old schoolhouse which adjoins her property. She is hoping that someone will buy it and make it a meeting place for the community, recognising the role it had to play in the education of generations past as well as its contribution to the history of the area. Her thoughts about the schoolhouse led her to thinking of community engagement and neighbourly relationships which, in turn, inspired her flash fiction challenge for this week, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about nurturing a neighborly relationship.

I would have loved the little schoolhouse at Elmira Pond as the base for the alternative school I hoped to establish at the end of last century. The schoolhouse has a nice community feel to it, unlike many of the large brick, concrete jungle-type schools into which one can almost dissolve in a sea of sameness. Charli’s schoolhouse/community centre would also be a great meeting place for parents with their young children; a friendly early learning centre for both.

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Based on my beliefs that:

  • parents are a child’s first and most important teachers;
  • the most important years of a child’s development are the years before school;
  • children who enter school with rich vocabularies, an interest in the world around them, and a love of books are primed to succeed;
  • children without those experiences are disadvantaged in their learning right from the start and face an enormous challenge in catching up;
  • waiting until children enter school is too late;
  • the best way to minimise or eliminate the disadvantage is by educating parents through programs that model effective parenting behaviours and support them in their interactions with their children;
  • parenting programs offering those types of support would be most effective if begun before birth of the children and continued at least until the child enters school, maybe beyond;
  • most parents want to do the best for their children, many just don’t know how to go about it.

There are any number of birthing classes, but not many that aim to support parents in nurturing their child’s development. In my opinion, investing time and money into developing programs such as these would have enormous benefit, not only to individual children and their parents, but to society as a whole.

I am not talking about programs that place children of increasingly (or should that be decreasingly) younger years into structured and formal “teaching and learning” situations. I am not talking about one-off talks or series of lectures to parents.

Many of the parents of children who begin school with the types of disadvantage I have mentioned are themselves products of similar disadvantage. In a previous post I discussed the roles of “nature” and “nurture” in a child’s development. In these cases especially, it can be difficult to tease out the differences. Many of these parents would not have positive feelings towards schools or any other public institution and may feel threatened, or reluctant for other reasons, to attend sessions in public halls or government offices.

What I am talking about is a program that:

  • goes to the parents and children in their neighbourhoods, meeting in a local park or community greenspace, on regular weekly occasions;
  • invites parents to talk with, read to and play with their children using provided books, games and toys;
  • models positive parenting behaviour, explaining to parents the benefits to their children of engaging with them in activities and discussions;
  • provides suggestions for inexpensive and easy activities to do at home;
  • encourages borrowing from a book and toy library.
Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

I envision the program being delivered by an early children trained educator who is sympathetic to the situations and demands of people from diverse backgrounds, who is warm and supportive with good interpersonal skills with both adults and children, who drives a mobile early learning centre fully-equipped with books, toys, games, paper, pens and craft materials, including items for borrowing and distribution for activities to be done at home.

I see the centre as a brightly painted caravan with doors that open wide to display a colourful and engaging assortment of resources to delight the interests and eyes of young children and their parents.  As the caravan travels into each neighbourhood it would play music to signal its arrival (think of the old icecream vans!) inviting parents and children to come, investigate, and join in.

caravan

Thinking about the excitement that such a program may stimulate in a neighbourhood, and the sense of community and belonging it may encourage, led me to write about it for my response to Charli’s prompt.

I hope you enjoy it.

The caravan

Children waited anxiously at windows and front garden fences.

Mothers and fathers hurried to complete the last of their chores.

Others, already at the park, were unable to wait.

Ears strained, listening for music signalling, “It’s time!

Suddenly “Girls and boys come out to play!” announced the arrival of the brightly painted caravan.

“Come on!” urged children, tugging at skirts, trousers and hairy legs.

“Come on!” chimed parents, downing cloths and brooms. Clasping small hands they whisked them out.

Everyone watched as the doors of the caravan opened; ready for fun: stories, games and much to explore!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

Fifteen blogs for inspiration!

very inspiring blogger

Recently Julie Stock nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Thank you Julie, I am totally delighted to accept. Julie blogs at ‘My Writing Life’ Julie writes about her journey towards being a published author and offering help to others who are in the same position.

It is only a short while ago that I posted an acceptance for the same award from Geoff Le Pard. In that post I promised I would do some exploring to seek out other inspiring bloggers to add to our growing community. Since then I have also created a page listing awards for which I have been nominated and those whom I have nominated. I’m sure a quick look at that page will suggest many worthwhile bloggers to follow.

Here are the rules of the award:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  • Optional: follow the blogger who nominated you, if you don’t already do so.

Map with Indigenous Australian place names

The seven facts I am sharing with you in this post are seven locations in which I have lived that are named using a word from the languages of Aboriginal peoples of Australia. Although I have lived in more than 20 homes for varying lengths of time, only seven locations have Aboriginal names.

  1. Yuleba: “the place of water lilies”, about 420km west of Brisbane: birth until about 10 months.
  2. Kallangur: “a goodly or satisfactory place”, about 20km north of Brisbane: 10 months until 61/2 years. I started school at Kallangur walking the approximately 2 miles (3.3km) to and from school with my older brother and sister.
  3. Wooloowin: “fish”, a suburb of Brisbane: 1970 – 72 (teacher training).
  4. Duaringa: “a meeting place on the swamp oaks”, about 116km west of Rockhampton: second year of teaching.
  5. Koolyanobbing: “large hard rocks”, approximately halfway between Perth and Kalgoorlie (i.e. in ‘the middle of nowhere’): about 18 months during 1977/78.
  6. Wagga Wagga: “the place of many crows”, approximately 450km south-west of Sydney: 1979 (university).
  7. Jindalee: “bare hills”, a suburb of Brisbane: 1997-2004 (though have lived in adjoining suburbs since 1981).

In this post I am nominating fifteen blogs that I have not before nominated for an award. If I have nominated you previously, you are still on my list of wonderful blogs to follow (see page).

It is up to each nominee whether they wish to participate by accepting the award and/or paying the compliment forward. The purpose of my nomination is simply to share with others how valuable I consider the blog to be.

 

Julieanne To Read To Write To Be

teacher versus mum

Irene Waters Reflections and Nightmares

Linda Petersen Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Staying Sane Blog

Geoff Le Pard TanGental

Carrie Gelson There’s a Book for That

Matt Renwick Reading by Example

Michael Michalko Imagineer7’s Weblog

A.J. Juliani Teach Different

Three Teachers Talk

Sarah Brentyn Are you kidding me?!

Shelley Wilson Live Every Day with Intention

Ross Morrison McGill @TeacherToolkit

Jean Cogdell jean’s writing

Tara Smith A Teaching Life

I hope you find time to visit some of those blogs. There is much to inspire!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts on any aspect of this post.

The magic effect – why children need books

Nor and Bec reading

 

 

Children can be read to from the moment they are born, if not earlier. Preferably earlier!

One of my favourite picture book authors and passionate advocate for reading to children is Mem Fox. I own, and have given as gifts, many of her wonderful books. I have attended her seminars and been mesmerised by her reading from her selection of stories. “Read more!” the adults beg. There are no children at these literacy seminars. This time it is a treat for only us: parents and teachers, literacy educators all.

Currently Prince William, Kate and baby Prince George are visiting Australia. I was delighted to hear that they were given a gift of books by Australian authors, including some by Mem Fox. Over the years I have given many of Mem’s books as gifts; and kept just as many for myself!

 Reading magic

One that I have given to many new or expectant parents, as I consider it a “must read”, is Mem’s book “Reading Magic – Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever”.

I would love to quote the entire book for you, but it is better you read it for yourself. I will provide you with this quote from the foreword as a taster for the richness to be found inside.

“It stands to reason that if we’re able to raise happier, brighter children by reading aloud to them, the well-being of the entire country will ramp up a notch. Children who realize in their first few weeks and months of life that listening to stories is the purest heaven; who understand that books are filled with delights, facts, fun, and food for thought; who fall in love with their parents, and their parents with them, while stores are being shared; and who are read aloud to for ten minutes a day in their first five years, usually learn to read quickly, happily and easily. And a whole lot of goodness follows for the entire community.”

Mem's website

 

Mem’s website, too, is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored by writers, teachers, parents, children and children-at-heart.

You can listen to Mem read from her selection of books on the Current Read Aloud page. She reads three different books each month. Currently the books are Possum Magic, Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! and Goodnight, Sleep Tight. Be quick to listen to these, though, as they will change at the end of the month. But never mind, there’ll be another three to enjoy next month!

Mem even gives a read-aloud lesson! Now there’s no excuse! As she says,

“. . . let’s get on and change the world, one page at a time.”

Yes, Mem, let’s!

 

What are your favourite read-aloud books? What did you enjoy as a child? What do you enjoy now?

Examining praise: Stephen Grosz – the third instalment!

Guest post by Anne Goodwin (Annethology)

Earlier this year, after reading 7 Reasons Why Lovers of Fiction Should Read The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz on Anne Goodwin’s writing blog, I decided the book sounded too good to resist and promptly listened to it as an audiobook on my commute to and from work.

I was delighted with Anne’s recommendation, and like her, found the book compelling reading and thought provoking. So much so that I wrote a post about it: A book worth reading: Stephen Grosz “The Examined Life”.

However the chapter that captured my attention and challenged my thinking more than any other was the one about praise. I also blogged about this: Seeking praise: Stephen Grosz revisited.

My post about praise got Anne Goodwin thinking further about this issue and she was able to delve into it more deeply with her background in psychology. She has very generously written this guest post to share her thoughts.

Thanks Anne – over to you:

Although I was enchanted by The Examined Life from the first page, I glossed over the chapter on praise. Reading primarily for the parallels between these therapeutic case studies and reading and writing fiction, I didn’t stop to analyse my reaction, to acknowledge I was challenged by the suggestion that praise could be detrimental. Perhaps I dismissed this chapter as a reaction to the rarefied atmosphere of that cosy part of North London that is the hub of British psychoanalysis. In my neck of the woods, as reflected in my flash fiction piece, Peace-and-Quiet Pancake, I’m more concerned about a shortage of praise and encouragement than an excess.

I was initially disappointed when Norah mentioned on Twitter that, with over thirty chapters to choose from, she’d decided to blog about the chapter on praise. Yet her wonderful post showed me what I’d missed in my initial (defensive) reading and inspired me to go back to the book and ponder the depths of wisdom within those four and a half pages for myself.

“Stephen Grosz calls into question where our ideas of good practice originate.”

In suggesting we rethink what’s best for our children, Stephen Grosz calls into question where our ideas of good practice originate. We tend to respond to the mistakes of our forebears by striving to do the opposite, so those of us who suffered from a dearth of praise ourselves might be inclined to lavish praise on the next generation. Yet we can become so fixated on turning our backs on the approaches we know from experience to be unhelpful, we’re blinded to the potential pitfalls of the alternative path. Cutting back on praise feels treacherous, like siding with the harsh disciplinarians of days gone by. Stephen Grosz points us towards a third way.

“Behavioural strategies are invaluable for introducing the necessary structures and routines in which children can prosper and learn.”

Behavioural psychology shows that targeted rewards, either tangible, or intangible like praise, increase the frequency of desired behaviours. Rewards are actually most effective when they’re doled out intermittently, which might be one argument (although not the author’s) for soft-pedalling on the praise. Behavioural strategies are invaluable for introducing the necessary structures and routines in which children can prosper and learn. However, they can also result in the over-controlled and compliant child, one who is well versed in pleasing adults but struggles to think for him or herself.

“Stephen Grosz suggests that parents and educators can become as addicted to praise as these children.”

Stephen Grosz suggests that parents and educators can become as addicted to praise as these children. The mother who continually tells her child she is good might be vicariously praising herself. Underlying this might be a lack of confidence in her own parenting skills and a difficulty accepting her child as a separate person, with potentially different values and preferences. This is unlikely to enhance the child’s confidence and self-esteem.

“He also cautions us to be wary of praising children for what they are rather than for what they do.”

He also cautions us to be wary of praising children for what they are rather than for what they do. He cites a study in which, consistent with attribution theory, children praised for their effort rather than their intelligence, developed a more positive approach to problem solving. We can always put in more effort, but if we believe success is down to stable and unchangeable factors we might be less resilient in the face of the failure we will all, however talented, meet at some point in our lives.

“a third position where the adult is benignly attentive to the child and curious about what he/she is doing.”

What the author recommends is not a return to a pedagogy of threat and punishment, but a third position where the adult is benignly attentive to the child and curious about what he/she is doing. The child who believes that an adult is genuinely interested in their ideas, thoughts and feelings, is likely to develop a strong sense of agency and self-worth. While this might seem a radical approach, it’s not dissimilar to the behaviour of a tuned-in mother who watches over and mirrors her baby’s moves. It’s also the stance taken by the psychoanalytically orientated psychotherapist.

This is familiar ground for me, but I didn’t recognise it on an initial reading. Having already decided I loved the book from hearing snippets on the radio, I was reading it for what I could praise. I hope it wasn’t empty praise, but I was unwilling to engage with parts that were hard to swallow. On the second reading, my stance flipped to critical, almost punitive, focusing more on what was missing from the chapter than what was actually there. Now this process of putting my thoughts into words has brought me towards the position of curiosity and attentiveness I wish I’d had first time round. Whilst other readers might be less defensive, it does make me wonder, if it’s a struggle to reach this position in relation to a text, how difficult might it be to apply this learning in the real world and on a larger scale?

“While parents, politicians and educationalists might all claim to value individual expression and personal growth, this has to be weighed against an equally strong pressure for the achievement of standardised performance goals.”

On a sociopolitical level, we might resist this understanding because of conflicting views as to what education is for. While parents, politicians and educationalists might all claim to value individual expression and personal growth, this has to be weighed against an equally strong pressure for the achievement of standardised performance goals.

On the individual level, as Stephen Grosz says in his final paragraph, being present with others is hard work. Therapists have their own therapy in addition to training and supervision; parents striving to do a similar job with only their experience of their own parenting to draw on could struggle to find the position of attentiveness beyond both praise and chastisement.

“Children who have never been praised, even for attributes outside their control, might have no concept of their own ability to impact on their environment.”

Furthermore, for the child entering school knowing only neglect and criticism, a teacher’s benign curiosity could be experienced as threatening, just as the neutrality of therapist can provoke anxiety in his or her client. Children who have never been praised, even for attributes outside their control, might have no concept of their own ability to impact on their environment. Does the busy classroom teacher have the resources to be truly present with them in the way they require?

Thanks, Norah, for challenging me to revisit this chapter and for the invitation to rework my comment into a guest post. For those who’ve had the patience to stay present this far, I look forward to your reactions.

Thank you Anne for the insight and challenge you have offered with much for us to think about.

I reiterate Anne’s invitation for you, the reader, to share your thoughts on this topic, and suggest you head on over to Anne Goodwin’s writing blog (Annethology) for a great assortment of interesting fare.