The other day my 5 year old came to me with some new activity she’d performed. She had managed to take a piece of paper and cut it into small chunks all over the floor. My adult mind quickly weighed the options for response:
Who am I talking to?
How much work was this to create?
How much work will this be to clean up?
Does this represent progress for motor skills?
Is the result something I would deem as creative?
What response is expected by the question asker?
I’m sure 1000 other questions and answers swam through my head in moments. Most of them subconscious. Within milliseconds my internal consensus was complete and I knew what my response would be. I was ready to deliver it.
With real sincerity and full enthusiasm I responded, “That’s really cool dude! Good job!”
All this was accompanied by a high 5!
I meant it, she was excited, I was excited. She had fun, she was proud of herself and her project was a success. As a parent, how could you not be proud?
Now, I was pleased with the response.
Excited that we’d had a fun interaction.
But my brain loves to process ideas. Once it’s spun up for problem solving, it likes to keep going… and going… and going. It’s sort of like the energizer bunny. But instead of banging on a drum it likes to tweak up my anxiety. In this case my brain kept running through questions and throwing out variable changes that may have changed the outcome. “What if the paper she was creating with was her birth certificate?”, “What if she had been using the big sharp kitchen scissors?”, “What if an adult had come to me with this same question?”…
What would I do then?
My brain loves hypothetical situations. It’s unfortunate from an anxiety perspective, because my brain tends to make me worry about things that are never going to happen. It is a gold mine from a blogging perspective. Every once in a while my brain spits out a random question that makes for a good blog. (Hopefully at least once a week)
What would I have done differently if an adult had come to me with the same question?
This lead to a whole new line of thinking.
At what point in life do we stop encouraging people?
As mentioned I was totally and sincerely supportive of my daughters activity. But what if a coworker had come over and said “Hey, check this out!”. He leads me over to his cubicle and shows me a little pile of cut up paper on his desk. How would I respond?
At what level of development do we decide a person no longer needs a pick me up?
When do we feel in life that someone has been encouraged enough and our job is to level set their expectation for the path going forward?
“Jon, I really like your pile of paper. But I also think you can do better. The paper chunk sizes are all over the place. You didn’t even organize the stacks, it’s just a heap of sliced up paper. I don’t even think you were trying. It’s like you phoned it in.”
I’m as guilty of it as the next person. I’m a sucker for kids, especially my kids. But there seems to be a cultural mentality about performance. There is, some point, in height or age or some metric nobody is even aware that we’ve agreed on, that causes us to become more critical. The voices change and our mental decision points shift. We weigh in more towards criticism. We lose the fun approver. We stop encouraging.
Why do we stop encouraging?
Catch yourself judging today.
Find a person that needs encouragement.
It’s not hard, they’re all around you.
“Way to stop traffic crossing gaurd”
“Nice Decision Obama”
“Thanks for fighting for our rights, Mrs. Constitutional Lawyer”
“Good blog Kevin”
It’s a cruel world out there, be the voice of “you done good”.
There is enough criticism.