Raising the Effortlessly Perfect Child

KellerNeuroscience, Parenting 1 Comment

Let’s agree, the perfect child does not exist!  But a number of parents in our organisation believe that their child needs to be effortlessly perfect.

Anyone who has parented knows that it is a hard job and we all need support.  Teachers are often impatient with parents – expecting them to just know how to do the job correctly.  We don’t!  

Social media does not make it easier, and adds to that the financial pressure, job demands, and the never ending list of wants and needs on the credit card.

As the year starts, we must expect a group of parents to be feeling desperate.

As the year starts – a new year, a different year, filled with more unknowns and known knows that we wish we didn’t have to know – expect a group of parents  involved in your school who feel desperate.  Our role as educators needs to be to share the burden with them and guide them in making simple steps in the raising of their children.  

A useful place to start is to explain to parents the difference between an AS parent and a DC parent.  

AS:  Autonomy – Supportive

DC:  Directive – Controlling

It does not take long at the first parent Zoom meeting of your class or Grade to identify the AS or DC parents.  Your DC’s would have produced the students that are going to occupy your attention.

As you welcome those parents to their first meeting, be it online or in person, you can quickly identify the AS and DC parents.
As you welcome those parents to their first meeting, be it online or in person, you can quickly identify the AS and DC parents.

In a controlled environment a Mother and Child were brought into a room and given a task to do together.  

The AS mom allowed the child full autonomy and especially the control over the finer details, encouraged competent decisions and the child reflected confidence.  The connection was evident and the child appeared to feel loved.  It soon became evident that the AS mom had a child who was tackling the task because she loved doing it, not because she had to.  

Loving work  – is completely different to doing work!  Loving being at school implies that the experience of the process exceeds the drive to get it done.  I may also imply a relationship based experience, where the opportunity to collaborate with peers under the guidance and wisdom of a charismatic teacher makes for a truly enjoyable description of work.

Regular words of support were made from the Autonomy – Supportive Mom like “Good job!”,  “Great idea!”, “Gosh!  That is pretty nifty!”  “Oh dear!  Try another idea!”

Supportive comments from an AS parent such as "Great job"
“Regular words of support were made from the Autonomy – Supportive Mom”

The Directive – Controlling mom concentrated on the task, almost rolling up her sleeves from the get-go to make sure her child got this right, first time.  The DC gave the instructions, guided the process, made next-step suggestion, was on constant surveillance and displayed body language which clearly indicated when she was frustrated.

In the second activity, just the child was brought into the room and given another task.  This is where the powerful work of the AS mom, who had mastered the art of handing over autonomy to her child while being totally supportive kicked in.  The child engaged in the activity, made errors, corrected them with a second try and ended the activity with a word of thanks, “That was fun, Thank you!”

The child of the DC mom did not fare well on her own.  She rapidly became frustrated with the task and looked for someone to direct her.  The idea that she was learning, lost its meaning and she wanted the task to end.  She quickly lost interest and when she made a mistake she lost motivation. There seems to be a tendency that children from DC parents have an obsession with perfection and will do anything to achieve it – setting themselves up for traumatic failure in adult life.

The Neuroscience:

The Neuroscience
The Neuroscience behind the experiment

The neuroscience behind this event is interesting.  It has to do with long term memory and not short term regurgitation to achieve the mark, bag the trophy, get your name on the Honours’ Board and get out of school.  Long term memory is about engaging in a thinking activity that will lead to the material becoming sticky and lodging in long term memory.

“Sticky thinking is a great concept.  It involves Frustration. Few of us have been taught that frustration is good and desirable.”

Gavin Keller
Child wondering where they went wrong

If you are not scratching your head, sitting back and wondering where the heck you went wrong, asking for advice, or Googling a possible response, the task is not sticky.  Sticky experiences force the data to be encoded into long term memory as opposed to short term regurgitation memory.  A student who cannot deal with frustration cannot learn long term memory data.

These are children we want to raise and it is not effortless.  It demands an enormous amount of energy from parents.  When parents get it wrong, as many of us parent do, then teachers have the ability to re-wire a very mouldable brain thanks to the new research in brain plasticity.  If the classroom environment is designed for Deep Thinking – where problems become sticky – and process outweighs product, then we can teach children the power of success wrapped up true GRIT.

Seven Takeaways for Teachers

  1. Stop talking about the Product and focus on the Process.

2. Autonomy leads to Competence and Connection with others.

3. The focus is not on confidence, but competence.  Competence produces Confidence.

4. Connection is at the heart of Collaboration.

5. The future is dependent on Collaborative Teams

6. Connect all curriculum material to the lives of your students to make it Relevant.  They have to engage the world to change the world. This is the heart of Deep Thinking. 

7. Curiosity is essential.  The 2021 teacher must be The Chief Curiosity Consultant. Students must learn how to cope with unsolvable problems.

2021…one step, just one step, better than 2020. Let’s do it together! Walk with us.


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