Sunday, April 13, 2014

What Creates A Good Child?

Synchronicity often gets me to do a post. Today two items came my way. I strongly urge you to watch the firt one - a heartwarming short Thai (with English subtitles, though they are barely needed) video about helping others. I can't figure out how to get the embed code for this video, so you have to go to this FB link.
[I've tried to go into the code to find the embed code, but it's not working.  I'm checking other websites that tell how to do this, but the FB code is different from their examples.   Just go to the FB link.  It's worth it, really.  I'll keep trying to figure this out.]

Then later, someone sent me a NYTimes article on Raising a Moral Child.   The video places doing good over doing well.  The article says that most people want that:

"although some parents live vicariously through their children’s accomplishments, success is not the No. 1 priority for most parents. We’re much more concerned about our children becoming kind, compassionate and helpful. Surveys reveal that in the United States, parents from European, Asian, Hispanic and African ethnic groups all place far greater importance on caring than achievement. These patterns hold around the world: When people in 50 countries were asked to report their guiding principles in life, the value that mattered most was not achievement, but caring."
Maybe that's why Romney* didn't win.  For him achieving seemed to be the main point of life.

The article goes on to look at how that gets accomplished and the studies find the right behavior appears to contradict what we are taught to tell children:
"Many parents believe it’s important to compliment the behavior, not the child — that way, the child learns to repeat the behavior. Indeed, I know one couple who are careful to say, “That was such a helpful thing to do,” instead of, “You’re a helpful person.”
But is that the right approach? In a clever experiment, the researchers Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler set out to investigate what happens when we commend generous behavior versus generous character."

It goes on to describe an experiment where some (7 and 8 year old) kids were praised for their good sharing behavior and others for their good sharing character.  The latter group was more likely to share later on according to the study.
"Praise appears to be particularly influential in the critical periods when children develop a stronger sense of identity. When the researchers Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler praised the character of 5-year-olds, any benefits that may have emerged didn’t have a lasting impact: They may have been too young to internalize moral character as part of a stable sense of self. And by the time children turned 10, the differences between praising character and praising actions vanished: Both were effective. Tying generosity to character appears to matter most around age 8, when children may be starting to crystallize notions of identity. "
A lot of conflict resolution folks tell us NOT to admonish the character, but to admonish the behavior - in adults as well as children - on the grounds that you can't change your character, but you can change your behavior.  But admonishing undesired behavior is the opposite of praising desired behavior.  And I suspect that a study of the opposite - admonishing undesired behavior - would still show that focusing on behavior was more effective than focusing on character.

*The Romney reference is not intended to be a dig, but simply a descriptive speculation. 

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