Monday, April 20, 2015

Lack of Motivation 2 - Getting Started

Lately, I've been facilitating Leadership Training for 6 and 7 year olds.  This has been a lot of fun.

One of the starter qualities is public speaking, and for little kids, I start with things that I know they have an opinion on - like "What is your favorite video game?"  It's easy to get kids to talk about things they know, and the most obvious thing they know is themselves.

With some kids, I get a blank look.  From experience, I know that kids will respond at their own pace.   A few years ago, when we were eating dinner, I would ask my kids how their day went.  The little one would just sit there.  Sometimes for 20 minutes.  I don't know what he was doing, perhaps going through every event minute by minute in his mind deciding what to share.   This would of course frustrate the other people at the table, who would refine the question like "Did you have recess today?" or they would just move on or answer on his behalf.

This is a BIG mistake for parents

It used to frustrate me to wait for a response, and I thought additional prompts were necessary.   One day, when everyone was in a particularly bad mood, the question was asked, and then there was 20 minutes of silent eating.  Suddenly, he answered.  The light bulb went off for me.

At other times, the question would be asked, conversation would move on, and then 20 minutes later in the midst of some discussion, the little one would begin to describe his day.  The light bulb went on again.

At one of our leadership training exercises, I asked a kid a question that I expected an answer to.  He just stared at me silently, and I stared at him.  I'm more than happy to wait 20 minutes for a response.  From experience, I know that I'll get one, and maybe the next time I ask a question, I'll only have to wait 19 minutes.  With my little one, after me patiently waiting to give him an opportunity to formulate a response and then respond, over a period of 6 months or so, he became very good at responding, so good, in fact, that now he talks nonstop from morning to evening.  When we do our leadership training, if I don't tell everyone to be quiet and wait their turn, my son answers all questions immediately and ruins the whole exercise.

Anyway, back to this kid.  I asked the question and waited.  His parent was sitting nearby and was very anxious about this, and then reasked the question, gave him prompts, and finally answered on his behalf.  The kid said nothing the whole time. 

That is why he doesn't talk.  He doesn't have to.  He has never learned to.

Some kids want to talk but are afraid because of the team setting.   If they say they don't want to answer the question, I will respond, OK, then, just tell me one thing that you did today (or one video game you like, etc.).  That is usually enough to clear the hurdle.   But I never give them any other prompt or move on.  I just wait.  Parents, on the other hand, are extremely anxious during this discussion and want to do everything they can to help the kid.  But they can only help by doing nothing.

I was an anxious parent before I dove into this 5000 hour research program I call my blog.  The implications of this event and the parent response should be clear to all of my readers.   What I am going to do in part 3 and 4 of my series on Lack of Motivation is take this same parent-child interaction and show how it plays out in test prep, math, and general learning to the detriment of the child.  Or the benefit of the child.

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