Thursday, November 30, 2006


There is an interesting statistic out there (it is buried in this article, which is an excellent overview, can't find the original study again). That children in middle class households get, on average, 6 "encouragements" per "reprimand". Children in lower class households get less than 2, and in welfare families the ratio is reversed. That’s rather stark isn’t it? The inference from the study was that this was a prime determiner in adult self confidence. Children who are praised a lot make for adults that are independent and self motivated.

Perhaps its because I grew up in a middle class family I find the thought of not encouraging kids completely foreign. That 700 is completely true. If one of ours picks up their plate and cup and puts it in the dishwasher it gets noticed and mentioned positively with a quick, “Good Boy”.

It came to mind this morning because Pirate Pete got a 20/20 on his latest times tables quiz. His teacher is a bit anal, and doesn’t let them progress to the next set of tables until they get a perfect score on the previous one. At the start of the year he struggled. Got lots of 18/20’s and 19/20’s but he didn’t get that perfect score for the first five weeks.

LL got quite upset about it, and I was beginning to worry that had a negative effect. So I rolled in with big smiles and positive encouragement to counterbalance her strictness on it. Frankly, I think it was the two styles together that turned it around for him. We both were quiz masters, and spent time going over the tables with him. Clearly something in his growing brain clicked, and for the past few weeks he gets the latest tables sorted pretty quickly. This week was a bit of revision, and he started getting a bit muddled when the tables where mixed up.

Both our styles came forward, LL with sternness, me with laughs and encouragement (which doesn’t mean LL doesn’t encourage and I can’t be stern). We were both still a bit worried, but clearly shouldn’t have been. He aced it, and was very proud of himself this morning. He got a big hug and ruffled hair as a reward. I love it when they are rightfully proud of themselves.

Yet it brought me back to that statistic. Encouragement alone isn’t enough, parenting needs discipline and sternness (reminder to self, must make sure I don’t leave all the sternness to LL). The encouragement builds self belief, the sternness builds inner will power and discipline. You’ve got to have both to succeed.


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