Value what you want valued

Walking the walk, reframing praise, and banishing "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I'm not so middle class that I was forced into piano lessons when I was a kid. But I know people who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the stool. Like music lessons were a punishment. Which is sad - especially when you consider the regret so many adults have about not playing an instrument. But also, a completely logical assumption when a kid has to endure scales and no-one else around them is playing.

I guess the parental thought process goes like this: I never had piano lessons as a child but now I wish I could play piano, so in their 'best interests' I am going to force my kids to.

Clearly, this doesn't work.

What might work? Well, you getting piano lessons, probably. That addresses the root of the problem - one's own regret - without dragging some poor unsuspecting child into it. But also, if a kid sees you getting lessons the chances of them wanting to play too have gone up significantly.

Babies learn by copying, but so do kids. So do adults, I suspect. They learn attitudes and values. Like generosity, kindness, and curiosity. They learn to value what they see valued.

Love what you do in front of the kids in your life is about inspiring through our own actions. The author, Austin Kleon, just did a "How I Parent" on Lifehacker. I love his work and I love this very generous, inclusive form of parenting.

Also, this tweet:

Can I make a gentle suggestion? Instead of saying, “Glad I’m not trying to raise a kid right now,” say something like, “Godspeed to anyone trying to raise a kid right now.” We need the encouragement. Also? You ARE raising my kids. You’re making the world they’re growing up in.

That final part is the very essence of We Are The Village.


The conclusion of the power (and peril) of praising your kids is to nurture a growth mindset. I catch myself all the time trying to come up with alternative praise for my niece. I want her - and all kids - to understand that trying hard is better than being smart.

If you're interested, Carol Dweck's Mindset is all about this growth mindset. Pairs well with Grit by Angela Duckworth.

Stop asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, says Adam Grant.

it forces kids to define themselves in terms of work. When you’re asked what you want to be when you grow up, it’s not socially acceptable to say, “A father,” or, “A mother,” let alone, “A person of integrity.” This might be one of the reasons many parents say their most important value for their children is to care about others, yet their kids believe that top value is success.

Which loops us back round to the beginning. We can be that person walking the walk and embodying the values we want kids to care about.

Yet another reason why a village is best - to expose kids to different people, different lives, and different values.