About reactions when children 'get it wrong'

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Maite
Posts: 571
Joined: 13 Jun 2011, 19:08

About reactions when children 'get it wrong'

Postby Maite » 13 Dec 2014, 22:57

Day 151: When Cesar gets it ‘wrong’
http://maitedip.blogspot.com/2014/12/da ... wrong.html

I often babysit Cesar in the afternoons while Leila is exercising and taking care of Charlie, her other baby (her horse :) ). Cesar likes being outside and amongst the dogs the most, but when it is cold or rainy, we’ll look for things to do in his room. One of the activities he’s been more interested in recently is playing with blocs, like duplo blocks or blocks that have a hole of a particular shape in them that he ‘has to’ then hang around a little tower of a particular shape. One thing here is that it is fascinating how we take our motoric skills for granted. It seems so easy to just put two duplo blocks together and make them stick and then start building a house or a plane or a tower or just some random figure. We don’t remember that at some point in our lives, we didn’t have the skills to do that and that we walked a process of continuous trial and error that demanded a lot of concentration on our part to slowly start developing the muscles and flexibility to put two duplo blocks together and make them stick the way you want them to.

So, Cesar is now walking that process of developing these motoric skills with lots of trial and error. Now, I started noticing an interesting experience within myself when I would see Cesar struggle or ‘get it wrong’. I noticed it first on a physical level, like a contraction in my solar plexus area and I would ‘hold my breath’ ever so slightly. In looking at it more closely, I could see that fear of ‘getting it wrong’ and wanting to prevent Cesar from ‘getting it wrong’.

So – what does ‘getting it wrong’ even mean – there’s several scenarios I’m referring to with that, from where I will see his actions/attempts as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

One is when he is for instance playing with the blocs that have holes of a particular shape in them, that he has to pull/drop over a tower of the matching shape. So, the block with the circular hole goes over the circular tower, the block with the rectangular hole goes over the rectangular tower etc. For me as an adult, I can see at first glance which shape he will be able to pull/drop over which tower and I also understand that this is the purpose of the game, that this is what it is designed for. As Cesar is picking up the shapes and turning them around, banging them together, tossing them across the room, he is just exploring these objects and what he can do with it. But with me understanding the ‘purpose’ of the game, I see it as the ‘wrong thing to do’ and I kind of become impatient, because I just really want him to ‘get’ that he can put these shapes over the towers! Because from my perspective, he hasn’t really ‘gotten the right answer’ until he realizes that the shapes are ‘supposed to’ go over the tower, lol.

So, here – I was projecting the idea that Cesar would feel proud of himself after having figured out that he could make the pieces fit over the towers. Here, actually, projecting my own experience when ‘getting something right’ and the belief that something is not worth doing and a waste of my time. I would have to resist the urge to show Cesar how to place the blocks over the tower, lol. But those ideas, beliefs and desires didn’t exist in Cesar – he was just exploring and here I was wanting to steer and limit his activity towards only one possible option of how to play with blocks.

I’ll continue in my next post.



User avatar
Maite
Posts: 571
Joined: 13 Jun 2011, 19:08

Re: About reactions when children 'get it wrong'

Postby Maite » 13 Dec 2014, 22:58

Day 152: When Cesar gets it ‘wrong’ – Pt 2
http://maitedip.blogspot.com/2014/12/da ... -pt-2.html

This post is a continuation to the post
Day 151: When Cesar gets it ‘wrong’

In my last post I explained the scenario where Cesar is using the blocks of a ‘game’ in a way that doesn’t fall into the parameters for which the game was designed and how I would react ever so slightly and yet very distinctly when seeing Cesar play with the blocks in a way that I see is ‘moving him further away’ from ‘getting the answer’ of ‘what the purpose is of the game’ – as describing one scenario where I would react in perceiving ‘Cesar getting it wrong’.

Another scenario where I would react within myself is when Cesar is playing with the same blocks – the ones with the holes of a particular shape and the towers of the matching shapes, where the purpose of the game is to place the blocks over the tower with the matching shape – and where Cesar would take a block with for instance a triangle whole and try to place it over the rectangular tower. Lol, I’m laughing as I write it as it now seems so silly to react to it – but in the moment of observing Cesar do this, I would become uncomfortable and would ‘fight’ the urge to tell him ‘no, that one goes over the triangular tower’ to then show him how it fits.

So – in this scenario, the reaction was again stemming from trying to ‘protect’ Cesar from experiencing what I believe he would experience in realizing the block doesn’t match the tower. So, here again I was projecting my own experience onto Cesar, where I believe he would experience frustration, anger and self-judgment in not matching up the shapes. Cesar, however, didn’t seem to ‘care’ if the shapes matched up or not, he would try to get it on, and if it didn’t work, then he would just do something else with it. He didn’t have the concept of ‘right or wrong’ – he would just observe that sometimes the shape matches and he can get it over a tower and sometimes not. I could tell him that the shape with the triangular whole will only fit over the triangular tower, but even when I did, he would try to place it over the rectangular tower – lol. So – I realized that he’s going to test it out for himself over and over until he is satisfied that it is indeed physically impossible to match a triangle and a rectangle – and there’s really nothing wrong with that. For him to ‘accept’ the fact just because someone told him will create a point of belief. And even more, if he keeps doing it because afterwards we say ‘well done!’ with a smile on our face, then we’re interfering with his learning process.

Herein I saw how easy it is to condition someone to act in a way to obtain praise – where you’ll end up only doing those things and pursuing those things of which you expect to receive positive feedback, instead of really finding out what is possible, exploring everything for yourself and see what works, what is effective and what is not. We believe we are ‘teaching’ a child something when we tell them ‘no, not that way – do it this way – look!’ – and that in congratulating them when they copy us, we feel we’re rightfully praising them for apparently having ‘figured out the right answer’ – when actually, we’re depriving them of the figuring out part – all they have learned is to copy us. The actual figuring out is a long process of testing over and over what works and what doesn’t - that is how a child will naturally learn and they won’t feel frustrated when something doesn’t work – they will only feel frustrated if we tell them they should feel frustrated, by reacting within ourselves with an experience of ‘no! not that way!’ – where every time they do something, they pick up on our reaction, and so start believing there must be something wrong with what they’re doing.

Without an outside person guiding the activity, a child will just over and over again try to fit a shape over every tower - regardless of whether it didn’t work once – he’ll try again later – so that he comes to the understanding that – no matter when I try to place a triangular shape over a rectangular one, no matter from which angle, no matter how much pressure I exert, no matter whether the sun is shining or if it’s raining – it doesn’t work – now the child has actually learned something.




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