010: Becoming Brilliant – Interview with Prof. Roberta Golinkoff

In just a few years, today’s children and teens will forge careers that look nothing like those that were available to their parents or grandparents. While the U.S. economy becomes ever more information-driven, our system of education seems stuck on the idea that “content is king,” neglecting other skills that 21st century citizens sorely need.

Backed by the latest scientific evidence and illustrated with examples of what’s being done right in schools today, Becoming Brilliant (Affiliate link) introduces the “6Cs” collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence along with ways parents can nurture their children’s development in each area.

Join me for an engaging chat with award-winning Professor Roberta Golinkoff about the key takeaways from the new book.


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  1. Ayla on February 7, 2018 at 7:33 PM

    I just discovered your podcast and have been enjoying it immensely! I listened to the episode on praise right before listening to this one and found myself wishing you had explored the topic of praise a bit further with Roberta Golinkoff. While I find the argument for not praising compelling I am curious about the more middle of the road approach she seemed to be alluding to when compared to someone like Alfie Kohn. I guess I find myself questioning (and I mean truly questioning, not disregarding) how necessary or even realistic it is to try to eradicate praise from my interactions with my child. If I feel joy in something my child accomplished does it matter if I say, “You did it!” instead of good job when my disposition will communicate that I am pleased either way. Is the former truly a different message than the latter? It seems that some amount of doing things for the approval and pleasure of others is inevitable and not undesirable. I would love to hear your thoughts.

    • Jen Lumanlan on July 11, 2018 at 8:55 PM

      Hi Ayla – my apologies for my delayed response to your question – I was having immense problems with spam and just now got my spam filter sorted out so I can find the real questions buried amongst the offers for viagra and penile extensions!

      Ultimately I think your question is about our goals for our children, as well as about how our culture shapes our parenting.

      When we say “good job,” Alfie Kohn would say that what we are really saying is “I approve of what you are doing!” and that it is better for the child to want to do something for themself rather than to please an adult.

      It seems to me like saying “You did it!” is almost a middle ground to make parents happy – we really feel as though we need to say something, but we want to put the focus on the child’s achievement. Perhaps this focus could be put even more thoroughly on the child by saying “You did it! How did it feel?”

      I am personally concerned about raising a child who disregards what others think to the extent that she doesn’t care what others think and will do what she likes regardless of anyone else. Perhaps this is less likely with a girl than a boy (since our society puts forth a lot of messages about how girls/women should care for others that I may not be able to override by myself even if I wanted to).

      So, in general, I try to find something of a middle ground. I don’t say “good job,” ever (although I did a few times when she was tiny – we have it on video and my husband likes to tease me about it).

      For minor achievements, I generally don’t say anything at all, or I’ll pay attention to some aspect of the thing (like the main color in the fuse bead arrangement she’s just done).

      For major achievements (like climbing a structure she couldn’t climb the last time we visited that park) I’ll say “You did it this time! Your body is taller and stronger now, isn’t it? How does it feel to be up so high?”

      For social issues, I’ll call out the way in which it helped the other person. Last weekend we went out with an animal tracking group; another child was playing with a stick but dropped it and walked off; Carys picked up the stick and was going to play with it but the other child turned around and said “where’s my stick?” Carys tentatively held out the stick the other child said “thanks,” and walked off. I could tell she was disappointed so I said “You thought she was done with that stick and you wanted to play with it, huh? Thanks for giving it back to her; it looks like she wasn’t quite done and she’s happy to have it back.” In doing this I acknowledged the pro-social behavior without making a big deal out of it; if Carys had been any more upset I would have offered to help her look for another stick or asked the girl to let us know when she was really done.

      On balance, I would say if you truly feel joy in a real accomplishment, there’s no harm in sharing that with your child. At the same time, you might want to examine what you consider to be a “real accomplishment” so as not to over-use the praise.

      Hope this helps!

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