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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111

Parenting Q&A
12 Things Great Parents Do:

Teach Kids the “3 P’s”

Loving our children comes naturally, but the art of parenting is a skill, and like any other skill it must be learned and practiced mindfully. Part of Habitot’s commitment to our community is to support parents in the crucial and precious task of raising young children.

For 2010-2011 we are expanding on parenting wisdom from local psychotherapist and parent coach Dr. Erica Reischer who has composed a list of “10 Things Great Parents Do.” We are adding two “great things” or our own and each month we’ll share research and our observations of tens of thousands of visiting families to illustrate how using the “great things” list will for work you and your child.

This month’s topic: Teach Kids the “3 P’s”

Instead of telling kids – “You can do anything,” – teach them the 3P’s: practice, patience, and perseverance.

As loving parents, we all want to see our children achieve their highest potential. We want to see them glow from accomplishment and burst with self-esteem. To this end, it is natural to shower our children with praise. What we may not realize, however, is that telling our children how smart they are or how “they can do anything,” we may actually hurt their ability to succeed.

More than three decades of research shows that focusing on children’s effort—not on intelligence or ability—better supports their success in school and in life. For example, when kids who have been praised for being “smart” are faced with a problem they can’t readily solve, they are more likely to just quit, and chalk their failure up to “not being smart enough.” By contrast, kids who have been consistently praised for their “effort” (persistence, trying hard, trying different strategies) are much more likely to keep trying in the face of a new challenge. They are not deterred by not solving a problem quickly.

Successful adults are the sorts who gamely take on new challenges, confident in their abilities to work through problems, try new strategies, ask for help, etc. Encouraging children by praising their efforts helps them develop this kind of confidence. As children learn that they have what it takes to succeed, they learn to persevere in the face of adversity and quickly rebound from setbacks.

Here are some tips on teaching kids practice, patience, and perseverance:

    • Provide situations that give children an acceptable challenge. Activities that are slightly difficult for the child will be more motivating and provide for stronger feelings of success when accomplished.
    • Allow children ample time when working to allow for persistence. When children are deeply involved with an activity, make sure that they can finish without interruption.
    • Encourage from the sidelines. Say to your child, "I know you can figure it out, I have confidence in you." This will boost her confidence and self esteem, giving her enough emotional steam to persevere to the task's completion.
    • Resist jumping in. When you see your child struggling with something, it's every parent's urge to jump in and help. Don't. It will lead to a cycle of uncompleted projects and frustration for both of you.
    • Give children opportunities to evaluate their own accomplishments. Rather than stating that you think they have done a good job, ask them what they think of their work. You'll never go wrong by asking the question, "What do YOU think?"
    • Do not use excessive rewards. They tend to undermine children's ability to value themselves. Praise and rewards should be based upon children's effort and persistence, rather than on the actual accomplishment.

To see the complete list of “10 Things Great Parents Do” or to learn more about Dr. Erica Reischer, please visit her website at www.DrEricaR.com. You can also get a hard copy of the handout in the purple parenting cart in the museum.

Parenting Resources

Bandura, Albert. Self-Efficacy. Encyclopedia of human behavior. New York: Academic Press. 1998. Division of Education Emory University Web Site: http://des.emory.edu/mfp/BanEncy.html

Dweck, Carol S. The Secret to Raising Smart Kids. Scientific American. November 28, 2007.

Carlton, Phd. Martha. Motivating Learning in Young Children. 2003. NASP Resources http://www.nasponline.org/resources/home_school/earlychildmotiv_ho.aspx

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