Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Praise Be!

Laid Off Dad mentioned this article, and after spending most of the day reading it (rather long, and it’s a busy day), so much just clicked into place for me.

Most of my childhood, I got very different messages about my intelligence and abilities. My parents told me I was smart, but since my older sister was the overachiever, with options to skip grades, I assumed I just wasn’t as smart as she was. This was reinforced by teachers who gave me shitty grades on everything because my handwriting has always sucked.

This all turned around sometime near 4th grade. Enough people had praised me for being smart that I believed it. I never talked about it with anyone. Even in high school, most of my friends weren’t aware that I was in honors programs. Only getting accepted into a prestigious university with scholarships alerted most of my friends to my smarts. So, I believed I was intelligent.

But like this article mentioned, I avoided anything I wasn’t immediately successful with. Like Math. Math has never come easily to me. Force of getting good grades made me persevere, but I wasn’t praised for the effort. I was praised for the grade. “See, I knew you could do it.” To this day, I assume I can’t be trusted to do even rudimentary math without calculators and someone else checking my work. I often joke that I chose my major in college because it required no math. But how close to the truth is that? If it’s not easy, I’ll avoid doing it because in my head, being unsuccessful means I am not intelligent.

As I sit here I wonder how different my entire life would be had parents and teachers known about this? Would I have been praised more for math than anything because I stuck it out? Would I have actually liked math as a result?

Who’s to say, but this is definitely something I will be doing with my children. Whenever they decide to get here.

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