In this episode, I'm going to be explaining to my children why we have been very purposeful in the praise that we provide them. Specifically why we rarely, if ever, will say something like, you're such a good kid. In order to do that, I have to go back to explain an experience that I had as a young adult.
Summary and Quotes
[00:00:50] – Self Defense training exercise story
[00:03:17] – Affirming effort, not the person
[00:04:12] – The importance of purposeful practice
[00:06:14] – Analyzing the situation
[00:09:50] – Focusing on the effort vs the outcome
Quotes from the Episode:
“We had to find within ourselves the approval of we're doing this right now, obviously I understand it's a learning environment, but what he saw was that we were externally focused and we needed to be focused on what we were doing. [00:02:32]
“We want to create a child who then grows into an adult who can get motivation internally and does not always have to seek external motivation and external affirmation for whatever activity it is that they're doing.” [00:03:39]
“The more that you practice, the more you ultimately end up winning. And to the unskilled practitioner, that looks a lot like luck, but luck also happens to be the result of a lot of practice.” [00:04:50]
“The focus for us as parents is equipping them with the skill set so that they can win the largest possible number of games in whatever domain that happens to be in over the course of their life.” [00:06:42]
So kids, when I had just finished up with school, one of the jobs that I had was working for the government. And I worked as a scientist and I would go around to various parts of the country and various parts of the world, and some of those parts of the world could be a little bit dangerous. So some of the training that I had was conducted, By a company that provides protection for people who go overseas, and part of that training was in how to handle yourself in a physical, altercation. Let's just say. And it was really a very good learning experience. But what I noticed was that we would be going through these various training exercises and there were a variety of different people in the training room, and they had a variety of different levels of experience.
But what would happen is at the end of the exercise. A lot of the students, and I would be included among these, would be looking around the room to find an instructor to catch an instructor's eye. Basically subconsciously ask them without actually verbalizing it, are we doing this right? So after about an hour of this, the head instructor came out, called us all out onto the mats and basically explained.
In a much more colorful language than I'm going to use right now. But he basically said, listen, , you guys are training to save your lives, to protect yourselves, keep yourself safe. And at the end of every exercise, I have seen many of you looking around the room searching for an instructor to catch their eye, to basically see if you're doing it right.
Find your own approval and he added some extra colorful words in there to em for emphasis. The point being is that we had to find within ourselves the approval of we're doing this right now, obviously I understand it's a learning environment, but. What he saw was that we were externally focused and we needed to be focused on what we were doing.
What we're doing is not particularly complicated or complex. It's not that we needed a, you know, micrometer precision here. The point that he was trying to make is that the conditioning that we were demonstrating is something that would be a liability in the environments that we were potentially going into.
So bringing that back to a more parenting focused perspective right now, one of the things that we do, as I said earlier, we don't say something like, Oh, you're such a good kid. Instead what we'll do is say something like. Wow. These letters that you've been practicing look a lot clearer. You must be putting a lot of work into this in case you didn't notice.
The difference between the two is that we are affirming effort, not the person. The reason behind this is we want to create a child who then grows into an end, an adult who can get motivation internally and does not always have to seek. External motivation and external affirmation for whatever activity it is that they're doing.
So another thing that we really focus on is we really focus on the effort, not the outcome. Another lesson that I learned on those mats from those instructors so many years ago that I pass on to you kids, is the importance of purposeful practice that you do on a regular schedule. For them. The focus was not on winning in any particular contest for them.
You started each day with a blank slate and you had to prove yourself each day, and they emphasize that the best way. Two, prove yourself is with purposeful practice because you build on what you've learned and you're not focusing on. Winning. You're focusing on building your skill set. And one of the quotes that I took away from them was that the more that you practice, the more you ultimately end up winning.
And to the unskilled practitioner, that looks a lot like luck. But luck also happens to be the result of a lot of practice. So we really emphasize and we really focus with the kids on effort. Not. Outcome. And it's funny because our kids will actually, they'll actually say stuff to us like, we'll be playing catch outside and I might miss a ball and my son will say to me, Oh daddy, you need more more ball practice daddy, you need more practice catching.
Oh man. Like it's, it's funny when it comes back to bite me like that, but I can only smile when I, when I hear that. And laugh because it's true and it, it makes me happy to see that that is being ingrained in, in him. And another thing is that it's not, if he misses the ball, it's not a reflection on him as a person.
He's just as himself, Oh, I need to work on that. As opposed to, Oh, I cam so dumb. I can't believe I missed that. Oh, right. He doesn't go through that. Yeah. It goes through analyzing the situation of, Oh, well I need to practice that more, and he might say it. He might be frustrated, of course, but beating yourself up is not going to focus the energy in the right place, saying, alright, I'm no good at this, blah, blah, blah.
Something like that. That's not going to get you anywhere. But we've conditioned him to focus on, ah, I need to practice. Getting those ground balls more. I need more practice with ground balls, need to improve my technique in that area. At this stage in their development, the focus is not on did you win that game?
The focus for us as parents is equipping them with the skill set so that they can win the largest possible number of games in whatever domain that happens to be in over the course of their life. So when we say, great job, you won. We are focusing them on the wrong thing for success in the longterm, especially when it comes to building skill in other areas.
For us, this is a really good example of if you ask the wrong question, then you don't really need to concern yourself with the answer. A great example of this is. A house in the summertime, you've just cooked a delicious meal. You've opened a window and a fly has come in. That fly is going to the top of the glass trying to get out.
It's trying all it can to get out from the top of the glass. Meanwhile, the window is open a foot and a half below it, and all it has to do is go straight down a couple of feet and it can fly off and do its happy thing, but it stuck there for the duration of the meal. That fly is asking the wrong question.
So therefore it doesn't matter what the answer is. As parents, it's our responsibility not just to make sure that you have success as a kid and that you can win the little league baseball game. We want to set you up for success across multiple domains, across multiple games. Our goal is not to make it so that you can just win this one game.
Our goal is to make it so that if you come across a new game, so to speak, somewhere in life that you are at beginner at, that you have developed the requisite mindset to gain those skills and focus on gaining those skills rather than looking for external approval. About. Are you winning or not?
Because let's face it, when you become an adult and you have to learn something new, especially when you have already established yourself as successful in one field, there may be a lot of pressure on you to feel like you, while I'm successful in this field, therefore I should be successful in this other field.
That means that you're not able to be a beginner and the biggest curse that. Successful people have who are successful in one domain is they don't give themselves permission to be a beginner. They don't have the environment created for them to be a beginner. They're focused on winning as opposed to focused on skills acquisition, especially when they change domains.
They, they, they try and cross over from one area of success to another. We see this time and time again, and so by having you kids focus on the effort that you put in. Versus the outcome. Not saying that the outcome is not important, but as you said before, when you put the practice in, luck kind of shows up and also affirming you from the perspective of the effort that you put in.
Oh, you're a good person because I say you're a good person. Then what happens if I say you're a bad person, right? You, your, your self identity is going to change based on that or be impacted based on that. So another great thing for you kids from this perspective. Is now you have a tool by which to evaluate how others interact with you.
How are others giving you praise or feedback? Are they F are they praising you? Oh, you're such a good boy. Or are they saying, wow, that was a really good practice session. You were really focused on these three things. Great job. Or, wow, you're, you're, you're an amazing kid. Well, are they, you know, it's, it's possible.
That somebody can manipulate you with that because it feels good to get praised. But if you realize that negative praise and positive praise, Hmm, not really particularly valuable in terms of helping you grow, but that specific praise about the effort and that commentary about that effort, not only can that potentially feel good, but it can also potentially help you further down the road into that skill acquisition of.
What you're looking to be successful in. So that is the end of this episode. If you have any questions, if you have any comments, please send an email and we'll see you in the next show.