Links on thinking, parenting, teaching, creating for October 4th, 2009 Inside the Baby Mind:

One of the most surprising implications of this new research concerns baby consciousness, or what babies actually experience as they interact with the outside world. While scientists and doctors have traditionally assumed that babies are much less conscious than adults – this is why, until the 1970s, many infants underwent surgery without anesthesia – that view is being overturned. Gopnik argues that, in many respects, babies are more conscious than adults. She compares the experience of being a baby with that of watching a riveting movie, or being a tourist in a foreign city, where even the most mundane activities seem new and exciting. “For a baby, every day is like going to Paris for the first time,” Gopnik says. “Just go for a walk with a 2-year-old. You’ll quickly realize that they’re seeing things you don’t even notice.” Thinking literally: The surprising ways that metaphors shape your world:

Metaphors aren’t just how we talk and write, they’re how we think. At some level, we actually do seem to understand temperament as a form of temperature, and we expect people’s personalities to behave accordingly. What’s more, without our body’s instinctive sense for temperature–or position, texture, size, shape, or weight–abstract concepts like kindness and power, difficulty and purpose, and intimacy and importance would simply not make any sense to us.

NYTimes: Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? :

In the end, the most lasting effect of the Tools of the Mind studies may be to challenge some of our basic ideas about the boundary between work and play. Today, play is seen by most teachers and education scholars as a break from hard work or a reward for positive behaviors, not a place to work on cognitive skills. But in Tools of the Mind classrooms, that distinction disappears: work looks a lot like play, and play is treated more like work. When I asked Duckworth about this, she said it went to the heart of what was new and potentially important about the program. “We often think about play as relaxing and doing what you want to do,” she explained. “Maybe it’s an American thing: We work really hard, and then we go on vacation and have fun. But in fact, very few truly pleasurable moments come from complete hedonism. What Tools does — and maybe what we all need to do — is to blur the line a bit between what is work and what is play. Just because something is effortful and difficult and involves some amount of constraint doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.”

NurtureShock: Are Time-outs for Tots Conditional Love? :

The real problem with Kohn’s articles is that, already, there is a lot of confusion about when to praise, and his pieces just add to it. They give the impression that parents must make a choice between unconditional love on the one side, and praise and punishment on the other. And that’s just not true.

Most research finds that kids need rules and structure – not as a form of prison, but a scaffold of autonomy they can build on.

Oberlin College professor Nancy Darling has surveyed thousands of adolescents, in the US, the Philippines, and Chile. She’s found that when parents set no rules, or when parents fail to enforce rules they’ve set, it sends a message that parents simply don’t care about their kids’ well-being or the kids’ actions. The adolescents think the parents just can’t be bothered by their transgressions.

While combining praise with a statement of love is problematic. For example, “You’re such a smart girl, and I love you,” sends a child a message that if she’s no longer is smart, the love will stop. But there’s nothing in the research that says parents should stop saying, “I love you.” It just that they should stop combining displays of love and affection and praise for achievement. Keep them separate. Once again, this isn’t an either or situation.

Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s perspective on praise is that – when we praise or punish – we need to make it clear that we are responding to what a child does, not who they are. We shouldn’t say “Bad Boy!” when the kid breaks a vase, and we shouldn’t say “Boy Genius!” when he made a vase in art class. Both “Bad Boy” and “Boy Genius” are wild overstatements of what we really think.

Instead, we can simply say, “You know you shouldn’t play ball in the house,” and “You worked really hard on that vase, didn’t you?” those are fine.

Beyond the moment, they teach children that we pay attention to what they are doing, and that we can be trusted to give them a fair and accurate response when they need it. Lessons we want them to remember when they’re 17, and they have a broken heart or just had a fender-bender.

As I said earlier, we just don’t have to make a choice between praise, punishment and unconditional love. That’s just a false choice.