Sunday, May 31, 2009

the inverse effects of praise

While preparing my lessons for the Beehives, I often check out some online resources, such as beginningsnew (website founded/run by a friend's sister who is a YWP - not that this makes her an expert, but I seem to have a similar way of looking at things as she does). There was a link on the side that led me to a rediscovery of some studies done on praise.

It seems logical and helpful to tell our kids that they are smart, in order to help foster a healthy self esteem and to help teach them that they can do whatever they set their minds to. In actuality, much research shows that praising EFFORT over ability is actually crucial. I've never been a big fan of psychological research. In mulling this over last night, it finally struck me that it's not psychological studies per se that cook my goose, it's poorly designed research in general that drives me bananas. I just have a stronger association between psych studies and poor design for some reason. So, I've been trying to be more open minded.

The studies referenced in this NY Mag article conducted by Carol Dweck totally intrigue me. Briefly, in one experiment, students were given ONE LINE of praise following a simple puzzle test. When they completed the task they were either told they 'must be really smart' or that they 'must have worked really hard.' When given the choice of a second test and told that one was easier, but that the other would teach them a lot, the majority of 'smart' kids chose the easy one, and 90% of the 'good effort' kids chose the harder one. Kids praised for their intelligence are more afraid of failing or looking bad - exactly opposite the effect parents are shooting for when by TELLING their kids that they're smart.

The entire article was fascinating to me, in particular the conclusion. After doing a significant amount of research, the author took a step back and looked at how she treated her 5 year old. The old adage 'Try, try again' seemed too trite, until she came across some research about persistence. There is an unconscious neural circuit in the brain that is activated when a reward is not immediate. This circuit is formed by intermittent rewards - if a subject is rewarded too frequently, they'll (a rat in this case, but people too) give up when the rewards stop. The author discovered that praising her son was a way of expressing her love for him, a way of playing catch-up for all the hours she wasn't with him during the day. HE didn't need the praise as much as she needed to give it.

This article just reminded me AGAIN of the real power of words. When Katie first started doing puzzles, I would say 'WOW! You're really clever!' when she'd figure out something that I thought was beyond her age. Of course, since I'm her mom and she's the first, I naturally think she's a genius to begin with - there is just a small amount of inherent bias here. Then I ended up with a two year old running around saying 'I sure am a clever girl.' Not that she isn't, but it's something she needs to figure out and know for herself.

The original article that sent me to the NY Mag article also has gotten my noodle cooking a ton, more in terms of the Beehives I teach. Girls/women are often told that they are 'special' and that they are 'naturally more in tune with the Spirit.' Never mind right now why that is, or whether or not that is true, but it has far-reaching consequences. A few - like probably 10 by now - years ago, a RS teacher made some statement to the effect of: 'RS is just more touchy-feely than Elder's Quorum' - with the implication being that RS is 'doctrinally light.' My friend Kari and I - sitting on opposite sides of the chapel (where the lesson was being taught) - in the same instant yelled out 'NO!' I think that silly attitude is used by a lot of girls as an excuse for not studying/figuring things out for themselves. Just as telling your child that she's smart is well-intentioned, I think that telling girls that they are naturally more spiritual - equally well-intentioned - can actually be an obstacle for them in learning how God talks to them individually. If an answer to a prayer doesn't come readily, then it must be because there is something wrong with them. How do you help someone understand patience and persistence and WORK if they think that they are just magically supposed to succeed? How do I in 30 minutes (max!) of class time a week help pound home the need for constant, consistant effort to figure things out for themselves? And sometimes it's going to be HARD!

So today, we ended up talking about how to stand up for others - including ourselves - by saying NO to things that are not OK for us. That being assertive is not the same as being rude. And in the background of my head I've been trying to figure out how to help a 12 year old understand that having a boyfriend 'because he's hot' is not the greatest reason in the world . . .

Friday, May 29, 2009


I discovered a couple of new things today.

First, I am starting to get over my 'thing' about Longmont bike trails. Growing up in Boulder, I have had some snottiness to get over to embrace living in 'Wrongmont.' One remaining hurdle is bike/hiking trails. Admittedly, this is in large part due to my lack of looking. I have many favorite trails in Boulder, and have been stubborn about searching out new trails here farther north. Part of my criteria for a 'cool ride' is being able to get to it straight from my house, without having to pack up the troops and equipment and drive, with a second requirement being limited road involvement. With my friends in the trailer, I prefer to avoid car traffic. Today, I found another cool route in our exploring, and discovered some more sections of bike trail which will limit riding on the road even more. HOORAY!

Another cool tool I stumbled upon is '' I'm not in love with all the pop-ups, but for a free tool that lets me keep track of my routes - so that psycho girl can know how long they are - as well as training calendars and different calculators, I can live with them. It is certainly a little different riding with an extra +80lbs on the back of my bike, and that amount is going to increase by another 20lbs or so when I add Max to the rig. I decided I should actually wait until he can sit in a bike seat, instead of rigging something off the back of my bike that I could attach his car seat - rear facing, of course! - to.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

3-year-old fairy lawyers

The 'list' has once again become the deciding word in Katie's bedtime routine.

A couple of months ago, while getting a certain girl ready for bed, I asked Katie to take her crown off so she could go to sleep. 'But Mom, according to the the princess list girls need to sleep with the crown ON!'

I had no idea what mysterious list she was talking about, and was simply curious how she would think of using an outside authority to back up her point of view. The next time we went to the Depot, she showed me what I had failed to understand.

In the paint department is one of our regular stops. The Disney section, to be specific. There are mouse ears in a variety of colors - we get to pick out two each - and little pamphlets with ideas on how to turn your child's room into a shrine to their favorite movie. Katie grabbed the princess one and immediately turned to the picture of a girl sleeping on her pink satin pillow with her crown on her head. 'SEE MOM! The list says that girls sleep with their crowns on.'

Well, now we've shifted to Tinker Bell, and the list is back in play. According to Katie: 'Tinker Bell girls need to sleep with their wings on.' Rog and I thought we were on strong footing on this one, because there is NO WHERE in the pamphlet where a girl is lying on a bed with fairy wings on. Feeling very sure of victory, we said that if Katie could prove it with the list, she could sleep with her wings on. She immediately ran to wherever she had stashed her current copy of this important document and said: 'See! Right here! Put my wings on, please!' After 10 minutes of discussion with Rog, in which he remained unconvinced, it was my turn. We spent a lot of time going back-and-forth like the following:

Me: Where are the wings?
Katie: Here on the carpet.
Me: See, they are there on the floor, so they don't go on girls for bedtime.
Katie: They DO go on girls. See?!
Me: No, they're just on the floor.
Katie: No, they are on the floor AND on the girl. So they go on girls.

What Katie saw in the picture was a throw rug of Tinker Bell, clearly showing her wings. The parents of course just saw the wings on the floor. Since Katie proved what she said she could, the wings went on. And she slept with her face smashed in her pillow to keep from squashing them.

And in case you're worried about Miss Girly-girl being unable to function in a non-pink world of bugs and dirt, know that she is a very well-rounded princess. The park we hit this morning lies between an irrigation ditch and a lake. One of the kids found a frog hopping across the sand. Alex was the first kid to successful catch him, but Katie was a close second. He was pretty jumpy, but the kids managed to hold him for seconds at a time before he'd escape again.

I wish I'd recorded Alex' giggle as he tried to hold the frog, because MAN was it infectious! That handsome boy could not stop laughing and smiling - and even stopped trying to stomp on the frog and just catch him after a while.

While we were chasing after the frog, mobile Max decided that the sandwich his siblings were too good for looked great to him and totally went for it. I brought a big enough blanket to keep him out of the dirt, but neglected to put all foodstuffs outside the 10-foot perimeter necessary to keep Max and his Inspector Gadget arms out of them. Luckily he gummed the bread bites to death, and I guess we'll just have to wait and see if a peanut allergy develops!

Max (8 months) and Seven in the front yard. The tulips are almost all gone but MAN did they have a great year!

Friday, May 15, 2009

adventure time

Today we went to the zoo again - our first time since January, since it got warm for real. Our nice quiet private zoo of the winter is gone. Today's zoo was populated with school field trips galore along with a million other people. I've gotten spoiled parking right at the entrance; today we parked at Colorado Blvd. Literally. In order to deal with the crowds, which I am rarely a fan of, I made a little list of why today's zoo trip rocked.

  • Having a membership. Psycho Kat can keep it in check and not have to see EVERY animal each trip, because we'll be back. To get an idea of how I USED to be, just ask Roger how many museums we visited during the course of a 3 day stay in DC about 8 years ago!

  • We got to see a bunch of animals that have been hiding on other visits. A bunch of different cats were really active - the cheetah was even growling! - the little white fox by the polar bears finally stuck his head out, and the river otter put on a nice water show and hung out in his little glass-walled den for our viewing pleasure.

  • Iron bladder Katie. I've been a little afraid of how we're going to handle the bodily functions with my posse on our adventures, but girlfriend held it for after 5 hours and didn't need to go until we got home. And then she went 3 times in 30 minutes once we WERE at home, because she didn't want to have a rest. Showing that she is also a regular 3 year old.

  • One good thing about the increase in people is the excellent people watching opportunities. One of my favorites was the guy in the Harley wife-beater t-shirt walking hand in hand with his close-to-teen-aged son. Very cute.

  • The merry-go-round. Katie started talking about this as soon as we got in the car to head out. She stayed just as excited during our walk around the animals. I liked how Alex has no problem climbing things that SHOULD frighten him, going down the slide or things that move freak him out. You can't get the full flavor from the picture, but while Katie was grinning the whole time and just having a ball riding the non-moving rhinoceros, Alex was gripping my arm and sitting stone faced during the entire ride.

  • Messiest ice cream cones EVER! We grabbed some cones for the hike back to the car after the merry-go-round. Alex is the world's greatest ice cream cone eater. The chocolate/vanilla swirl looked great running down his face and arms, all over his shirt, and even puddled on his shoe. Alex got to ride home with his shirt off.

  • Loosing count of the number of people who made a variety of comments on the theme of Gee, you must be busy!' The winner for most irony goes to the woman pulling a train of 2 year old triplets, who said that I must be busy. On the ride home I kept thinking what a bunch of tools these people were, and then it struck me, I probably actually AM busier than when I was in grad school. Of course, I was a total slacker student. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

aunt mag recap

Katie: Mom, why did you take aunt mag to the airport? She's my bestest friend. She does all these fun things with us!

When we got back from the aquarium and Oma's house late Friday night, this was waiting in the yard for mom: Happy 13th Birthday! Oma and Mag took the kids back to Boulder, and Kat and Rog went to REI to do a little shopping. We also hit an upholstery store, and while we were there met a guy who reupholsters car seats - and happens to specialize in Saab! HOORAY! Take that little challenge off my list!

We went on a walk in the rain so mom could try out her birthday present.

We had some good hanging out time, building with Alex's new Tinker Toys and magnet building set. We also went through a million baby clothes. Roger is quite happy to see 4 large bins of clothing leave our house - or I should say he is happily anticipating the day when I go ship them all off. Mag also felt it necessary to beat Kat approximately 100 times at Doodle Dice.

Monday night Mag's friend Summer threw her a baby shower. It took Katie a while to warm up to everyone, but once the presents started coming she came right out of her shell.

We were lucky to have Aunt Mag for a nice long weekend, and we all had a grand time and can't wait to see Aunt Mag again - probably sometime in July when little 'Benjamima Lady Bear' hatches and we get another new cousin to play with!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

alex' birthday recap

Two weeks late, but here they are. Alex truly scored a birthday week. The actual birthday day involved ice cream cone cupcakes and opening presents with the immediate fam.

The next night, Oma and Opa came over and we did a couple more presents, and another cake (these collages are mixed together a tad). The pictures in the middle show Alex checking out the card after being surprised by the musical CARS card. He was hilarious.

Friday we went to the Denver Aquarium with Aunt Mag. Oma came and joined us for lunch. Cake #3 was a shark. Luckily I took a picture of it in the morning before we left, because it indeed cracked in half by the time we got home. I got the idea here. The directions said to use a pound cake - after I baked a regular cake in a loaf pan, it dawned on me why: regular cake is no where near dense enough to hold the shape. But as you can see in the bottom right, Alex did not hold that against the cake.

Alex had a great birthday, and we are so happy to have his sweet little self in our family.

Monday, May 11, 2009

easter recap

If the little people of the Young household had been healthy on Easter, this is what they would have been sporting. Instead, we waited to be all cute and springy a few weeks later - in between rainy weekends. Katie actually was excited to wear this dress - probably because she got to pick out the fabric, and I made it seem like she picked out the pattern.

back to january

This is how Max felt about missing Grandma Kathy last January. (My friend just sent me the pictures - the batteries on my camera died after one picture at the beginning of the adventure.

Back in January Max and I took a jaunt to SLC with a buddy for a good friend's wedding. We ended up having a little time before the return flight, so we tried to go visit Grandma Kathy. Unfortunately, we ended up at her house during the exact time that she was not in it. Uncle John let us in, and we horsed around taking a few pictures to prove that we indeed try to catch her. This is my favorite. I'm sure being dragged around for two days in unfamiliar territory helped his mood a little as well. ;)

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