Which is better? The carrot or the stick?
Is it better to criticize someone or to try to help build them up?
When working with people of any age, we always want to be positive.
Here are a couple of examples of this:
I knew of a teenager who got all A’s and a B+ on her report card. When her father saw it, he asked, “What’s with the B+? Why not all A’s?”
How do you think this made the girl feel?
I would imagine she might have felt surprised, disappointed, hurt, and maybe even a bit angry.
How do you explain the parent’s question? Perhaps it was out of love, and it was intended to motivate his daughter. And I think it accomplished exactly the opposite.
What would you have said to YOUR daughter about this report card?
Along those lines, I treat a lot of patients with bedwetting.
Many people suggest that children and adolescents keep track of how many nights per week they are wet. Again, another negative outlook!
I prefer to have my patients keep track of DRY NIGHTS ONLY. So, if someone has been dry 2 nights over the past week, I have a choice. I can tell them:
“Hey! I see you wet the bed 5 times last week! Why was that?”
Or, I can say, “Wow! I see you were dry TWICE last week! That’s fantastic! How did you do that?”
Which sounds better to you? Which feels better to the child?
Even a young child will recognize that the second choice is better because it is more positive.
How is it more positive? Instead of emphasizing failure, we are celebrating the child’s success!
Some coaches or instructors or teachers will only criticize their athletes or students. They never give positive feedback or congratulations.
They clearly think that this is the best way to motivate these youngsters. And my hunch is that this was how they were raised. Perhaps their parents, teachers, or coaches treated them this way.
Then they might be thinking, “If it was good enough for me, then it’s good enough for my athletes/students.”
I invite you to think about these examples, and to take a moment and pause, and reflect on which lessons you are teaching your children? And what kind of input, and impact, you are making on your child in these types of situations?
It would be great to have a dialog. If you’d be willing to share your experiences, please reply to this email and let me know what you experienced as a child, and how you like to motivate others today.
Of course, your comments will be kept confidential, and if you feel comfortable, I’d like to post them on this blog, without any identifying information of yours.
Jeff Lazarus, MD, FAAP