The snow has restarted in earnest around here. Leaving class last night, it appeared as the the wind and snow was conspiring to make a blizzard. Coming home, I could see the little whirling snow rivers created by our passage highlighted by the headlights of the car behind us. This is the kind of weather I can support. Of course, the fact that we regularly get weather like this makes me look askance at those southern folk. I guess when you don't get weather, it's hard to know what to do when you get it.
Little Guy and I were working on his letters and numbers yesterday, and I praised him to the heavens, just like any other parent. Then I read an interesting article (Don't Call My Kid Smart) that has me rethinking how I approach this. Jeff Weinstock writes that we shouldn't call our kids "smart". By labeling them as "smart" and attributing their success to natural talent, we set them up for failure and, even worse, we set them up not to try.
I can see some of this emerging now. I have called Little Guy smart ever since he started exhibiting advanced tendencies. He can count to 100, how smart he must be. He can read some of the simpler books, he is so smart. But getting him to practice, getting him to do the stuff he's NOT good at... Then he balks and doesn't want to try. Why? Because it's not easy for him and he already recognizes that he is "smart" and therefore things will come to him without having to work at it.
As we all know, though, life does not favor the easy route. If you want something, you have to work for it. This is true in all things: school, work, and even relationships. This puts me in an awkward place though. He is smart and I know it. He does have a high level of innate intelligence and things will come easier for him than they will for others. He is fortunate to have that ability. But, that doesn't mean there isn't a certain level of effort he must put forth to succeed.
But, how should I praise him now? Telling a 4 year old: "Great effort!" or "What a nice try!" just doesn't seem right. Those are the phrases that you give to kids who really do mean well, but just can't quite reach that bar. Those are lines that just seem coated with an undertone of pity that you feed to kids to ensure their self-esteem isn't too damaged by failure. And by avoiding the use of the word "smart", are we in danger of hurting our kids' self-esteem by not acknowledging their intelligence? No one warned me that being a parent was so dangerous. Are we all destined to ruin our children either by over-inflating their egos or destroying their self-esteem?
After discussing the article with Big Guy last night, he's of the opinion that I read too much and worry too much. He says that Little Guy will likely survive the fact that I call him smart and be the better for it. He's got a point and was in a position to know. Back when we first dated, he did audits for CPS and it truly upset him at what some of those poor children went through. And, to a certain extent, he's right. At the same time, I do need to find ways to praise and encourage Little Guy for the work he does.
In more amusing news, I finally found my keys while I was at school last night. They've been missing since before Christmas and I was really getting worried that I had done something horrible with them or maybe even left them someplace. I found them in my purse. Yeah, I know, I know.
Watching Jimmy Fallon last night, I realized that Little Guy's hair style is catching on. Michael Cera has the same exact hairstyle. I can now pass it off as intentional. I would like to point out that my son had that hairstyle long before Michael Cera did though. That's my boy, always on the cutting edge of fashion. And he's super smart to boot.
Dammit, he'll never recover from having me as a mother!