Repetition Breeds Remembering

Most of you probably know that the best way to remember something is through repetition.  The more you repeat something, whether it is through practice problems with homework, practicing your skills in a sport, singing the lyrics of a song over and over every time it plays on the radio or hearing things others say – the more likely you are never to forget it.

In regard to that last one: Think about the things people have said to you over and over throughout your life.  Things that whether good or bad, you never forgot and to this day, they affect your beliefs and behavior.

They may have been things like:

1. You’re a great singer

2. You’re great at math

3. You’re good at basketball

4. You’re talented

5. You have a way with words

6. You talk too much

7. You’re stupid

8. You’re ugly

9. Nobody likes you

10. You’re too skinny

11. You’re too fat

12. You can’t dance

13. You’re not as good as your brother/sister

Most of us have heard one or two of the above from other kids or perhaps family members or friends or random others throughout our lives for various reasons.  The more times you heard these things (not limited to those things on the list above) the more ingrained they became and affected your self esteem.

Armed with this knowledge, that the things people in our lives say, whether good or bad, are remembered deep in our subconscious and have the ability to affect us – I decided to do something about it.  I decided that the things I wanted my kids to hear repeated most often would be positive.  If what we hear as kids helps shape our self image, then I could do something about my own kids’ self images.

For the last few years I have made it a point to not only say positive things to my kids but to say positive things about them to others – particularly when I know they are listening to my conversations.  I don’t make unreasonable statements, I don’t exaggerate and I don’t make up things about them that aren’t true.

I make an effort to point out the differences in each child because praising them as individuals is just as important as the praise itself.  I want them to be proud of what makes them unique.

  • My third grader reads at a fifth grade level. She loves to perform, is a very charismatic actress and according to her piano and singing coach, is pitch perfect.  This is a phenomenon known as absolute pitch.  She also writes her own books and plays.
  • My fifth grader has great hair, it’s thick and naturally wavy and looks beautiful without any styling at all – lucky her.  She has a way with pets, wherever she goes animals seem to love being near her and try to get her attention.  She is a talented artist and she makes straight As.  She is quiet and reserved but very compassionate and sensitive.
  • My senior is gifted at mechanics.  He has been taking things apart and putting them back together since he was 2.  He can take apart his computer and then rebuild it.  He built his own robot when he was 12.  He seems to have a knack for knowing how things work.  He is also a hard worker and very responsible.

There is of course more to the development of self esteem and confidence but if you are a parent, don’t assume your kids know what is great about them.  Make sure to tell them, repeatedly. They will hear enough of what is not great about them from the rest of the world.  Mean people are everywhere.

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5 thoughts on “Repetition Breeds Remembering

  1. Good advice, and something I tried to practice. The flip side is too much praise, which I think is the result of helicopter parents who really aren’t there there for their kids. I saw the result of this when I was teaching – kids who thought they were so special, they deserved good grades without working for them – entitled.

    • I’m careful not to go overboard on praise. I can’t stand adults I run into that are full of themselves, feel entitled and are generally not pleasant to be around. I just want my kids to have a lot of positive reinforcement in addition to the normal stuff that isn’t positive – like when my youngest didn’t get elected to student council and she went on about how it wasn’t fair, the process wasn’t fair and all of that nonsense. I explained to her that the way the school did the voting was fair and that she needed to accept that there will be many things in life that won’t go her way and she can try again next year. In the meantime she should figure out something else to try. We also discussed the kids who did get elected from each class, what their positive qualities were and why she thought they got elected. No resenting or badmouthing other kids are allowed at school. Any bad feelings are welcome, as they are a normal response to not getting what you want, are listened to, are acknowledged and discussed at home and dealt with there.

  2. Great parenting advice – more parents should try it. But the balance between praising their unique skills & making sure they understand that everyone has unique skills, too, is very important. Raising confident, self-sufficient who can cope with disappointment – now that’s the real tricky part. And no, I did not manage to raise totally perfect humans- but they are reasonably self-sufficient. 🙂

    • I agree. I try to make a point of having them tell me about other kids in their classes and what their talents are. We discuss a lot about our own personal qualities compared to those of others. I think a great deal of self confidence comes from being able to define who you are. If you can identify your qualities, your good and bad, your hopes and dreams, your beliefs – then what others think of you doesn’t have as much of an impact. Having a well defined sense of self I feel in part comes from knowing that you are different, that we are all different in many ways.
      I have yet to figure out how best to handle disappointment other than offering comfort. I realize as an adult, disappointments seem small in comparison to our life experience but to a kid, everything feels like it is super important because their life experience is so short.

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