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Sunday, May 14, 2006


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Faber and Mazlish give probably the most succinct and useful set of arguments about praise I've found, scattered across all their books. Although, as convinced as I am, I fall back into the vague "Well done" far too often, even still. (I also think, mostly, at least I'm not saying "good girl," which both sounds like praise for a pet and implies goodness tracks with performance.)

I really do find that a careful description of what I've seen works far better both to boost the kids' sense of self (they feel _seen_ when I do this, and you can tell) and also to give them room to evaluate their own efforts honestly. It's the rare kid who doesn't know he or she plays poorly, and a 6-0 loss isn't exactly an ambiguous sign. So probably (certainly) the kids are developing over-exercised BS detectors, if the praise is misplaced etc. Of course, even in a 6-0 loss, there are probably particular passes or runs or attempts worthy of notice -- and if they're noticed, the kids are likely to chime in with the necessary "yes, but we could have done X" that leads to learning.

I'm a big fan of truth telling, just not the brutal kind. And even as an adult (especially as an adult?), I find the simple description of actions (or, in my case, dissertation progress/writing) gives me room to critique myself, and then get on with improvement. Neither the extensive withering critique nor the contentless praise has much positive effect.

I wonder how kids Ollie's age would react to questions, after actions had been described: "What did you see on the field? What should we be working on in practice this week?" And then the coach could build on what gets thrown out, or guide kids toward the answers.

Susoz, I've just started playing soccer for the first time, in the local women's over 30's league. Never kicked a ball in my life (although I did play hockey a little) - and it is thrilling! Maybe you could give it a go - it's great exercise, you get to meet really nice women and it's a great thing for kids to see their parents enjoying. And losing well. My son's seen a lot of that!

As I probably won't get around to doing my football post soon, I'll take the liberty of putting down some of my thoughts here.
My elder son has been playing in a team for nearly four years. He likes it and exercise-wise, it does him good. But the last thing I'm expecting from the club, is to give him the kind of upbringing that I'd give him myself. Part of the useful role that the club plays is providing a completely different social context to what he gets at home. He feels like a member of the team and the boys there seem to like and respect one-another even though most of them don't meet outside the club and come from all kinds of different backgrounds. They've been through one season where they didn't win a game. The next they won everything. The difference was in the quality of the trainer. This season they are doing quite well although the trainer is a nice bloke but frankly useless at his (unpaid and voluntary) job. But I think it's doing him good to go through all this, to experience winning and losing and to adapt to a new context which is not tailor-made to his personality - and occassionally to get a rude, crude, old-fashioned bollicking. Life at home is different but so is life outside home and I think he's done very well in learning to master that. It will help him when he has to cope with the new environment of secondary school soon.
As far as success and failure are concerned I hope I can teach my kids hat these are not absolutes: McDonalds is the most successful restaurant in the world and therefore worthy of the most respect, adulation and imitation??? Case closed.

Zoe, our club has over-35 teams for mothers and fathers. But I'm nervous about playing soccer because of the knee problems I had last year. This year it's been fine (my knee, that is) and maybe if that continued I'd think about playing next year. I loved team sports as a child (played netball from ages 10-12.)

So much familiarity with many of things you are experiencing - we have seen much of this - and it is our third season.

In relation to your feelings about how the play is called I can give you some advice I can got from my best friend who is a mother of three boys constantly involved in team sports. "There is little to no natural justice on the field" - the coach and umpire will call it how they see it not how they should have seen it. So I have passed on this piece of reality to my son to help him deal with the "injustice" of certain calls.

In my son's team they take turns at being captain and are both awarded a Cold rock icecream or Fish and chip voucher for the best player. I think these gestures do emulate in a way that adults are awarded for good play and encourages them. In reality by the end of the season everyone has got one so I know it is just for show. But what about the pc way kids play pass the parcel these days everyone's a winner! Do we go back to teaching them the hard lessons or to we stave it off for as long as it is within our control? They are interesting questions about how much "real life" they need to experience just yet. Elliot was in a winning team last year and this year is in a team who are lucky to win - I feel that he needs to experience both.

My husband has been manager for two seasons and not through his own choice (the coach became sick) become the coach this season. He has taken on these roles due to the unwillingness of the other parents to be more involved than just taking their kid to the training and game.

I do feel for him having to train so many children who will simply not listen to instruction and parents who ignore the need or refuse to talk to their child about the importance of paying attention to the coach during training and during a game. Paul is a very patient person and is frustrated that he has to become stern with other children when he does not have to do that with his own.

Last week when a child ignored his requests to come off the field quickly when asked too several times. Do to the child lingering on the field, it eventually caused some interference with the play and his side lost possesion of the ball. Paul finally "lost it" and spoke to him sternly about the problem he had caused and the fact he had told him to come off quickly several times already. Shortly after the boy's father sidled up to Paul and Paul thought okay here it goes. To Paul's surprise the father actually said he would talk to his son about moving quickly from the field.

I feel we made a mistake letting Elliot play a third season of soccer this year, when we thought he needed to have something to compare it with like, AFL. We didn't want to be the pushy parents but at the end of the day I didn't assess the need to move him out of his comfort zone and play something else. We are definately going to make him try something else next year. Another good reason is because Paul seriously needs a break from the nonwilling parent involvement/manager/coach dynamic which i think is a big part of youth soccer.

For whatever it's worth, I think kids adapt to whatever level of praise they are used to hearing from the adults around them. Me personally, I was raised with tons of excessive praise, and mostly I came to feel that it was meaningless but that it indicated that my mom wanted me to be happy. But, notwithstanding the flood of praise, I grew up OK anyway.

As a parent myself, I think I do praise my kids too much. But I aim to do it in the way that Jody describes, doing descriptive praise by describing what it is that I liked. I don't think I ever say to my kids "good boy" or "good girl." I agree with Jody -- I think the kids appreciate being really "seen".

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