Want Your Children to be Great at Something? Let Them Fail
A parent who wants their child to be great at something, absolutely cannot put love out there as a reward.
David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including "The Forgetting," "Data Smog," and "The Immortal Game." He is a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS. His new book, "The Genius in All of Us," will be published by Doubleday in March 2010.
A parent who wants their child to be great at something, absolutely cannot put love out there as a reward. It actually works in the short term. You can get a child to be really, really good and really, really motivated by saying, "I’m not going to show affection until you cross a certain skill level," but it’s a disaster emotionally for kids and it gets even worse as they grow up.
Parents need to help their kids understand that first of all whatever they are is okay. Secondly, it’s not only okay to fail at stuff. It’s actually good to fail at stuff. You cannot learn until you fail. Every time you fail it’s if you are open to that being a learning experience. Why you failed at something is the gateway into learning and then you combine that with persistence, with this idea that the people who get great at stuff it requires just pushing and pushing and never stop pushing, kind of enjoying the process and embracing the failure and never being quite satisfied. It's about having a certain contentment with the process, enjoying who you are and wherever you are, wherever you’re at skill-wise.
You need to also know that there is more to do and that over time you will get better at stuff if you push yourself. I know that sounds kind of mundane, but that turns out to be true.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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