More on math and perfectionism

Combating perfectionism and its sequelae is an ongoing battle at houses with gifted youngsters.  It is hard to provide continual challenges for smart kids that allow for failure but also allow for recovery from said failure.  When life gets too easy, failures seem to become that much more devastating when they do occur.

I really like math.  And math is nice because it comes in different levels which can provide different kinds of challenges and generally there’s going to be a solution.

We really enjoyed the workbook, Hard math for elementary students, though when I say “enjoyed” it was kind of a love-hate relationship for DC1.  There were sometimes tears.  But in the end, zie always triumphed, and that was exciting for DC1 and created true pride (though an odd consequence was that when DC1 cranked through a page easily, zie decided that page was too easy!).  It truly was a hard math book.  We were thinking of going through it again, but DC1 hasn’t wanted to.  Since DC1 just got into brain teasers and is spending hours on them on hir own, I ordered Aha and Gotcha and am going to let hir explore by hirself.

One of the really good parts of math for perfectionist people is that sometimes in order to get things right, you have to get them wrong a lot first.  There’s a method of solving things called “brute force” in which you just methodically try all of the possible answers to see which one(s) work.  You *have* to get things wrong.

The game Mastermind is another example of needing to get things wrong in order to find information that gets to the right answer.  You guess and then get feedback that helps you guess again until you narrow down the answer.  The game just isn’t that much fun if you guess right on the first try.  This game too initially caused tears in DC1, but coming back to it later it has been fun.

Finally, a fun (free, online) game recommended by school is fire boy and water girl.  This is another one where you learn about the world and have to try again and again in order to get the solution.  This one has never caused tears to my knowledge, though zie has stopped playing in frustration and come back later, which is totally valid.

It would definitely be nicer if there were never tears, but the pride that happens after figuring out something that previously seemed impossible might be worth it.

Do you have any suggestions for challenges, math or otherwise?

Ask the grumpies: TV Policies for kids

The frugal ecologist asks:

Curious about what your tv policy is for your kiddos. We have done zero screen time for our 2 year old. That’s been easy, and I’m not sure when/if we want to break the glass…as a kid I had a limit of one 30 min show per day, but I remember zoning out to hours of tv if my mom wasn’t home…

When did your kids start watching tv? Do you set limits? Do you treat it as a reward? Do they watch on a regular set or on a device – tablet etc. maybe this should be an ask the grumpies!

No judgement, just curious how other folks approach this…

Well, nursing time was Comedy Central time for me, so DC1 started out from almost day one really liking The Colbert Report and to a lesser extent The Daily Show.  As for when did DC1 start watching tv hirself, it took a while for DC1 to be able to concentrate on shows by hirself without screaming, and we did have shows in moderation because when zie was able to watch shows by hirself, we wanted to be able to put a show on and have hir captivated.  We had friends who always had the tv on and the kid would just ignore it.  So they didn’t have a magic bullet when the baby-sitter called in sick or what have you.  Tv time went up probably around age 3, but by that point zie was reading well too (helped by Starfall and the Talking Letter/Words Factory videos).

DC2 has probably never not had screen time.  The amount went up dramatically after we got an ipad because kids are really good with ipads and ipads are way more interesting than say, Reading Rainbow.

We are really lazy parents.  So we don’t have the tv on by itself.  (Technically we haven’t owned a tv since early grad school, but we have had a movie projector and we do have computers and now the ipad, so it’s essentially the same thing.)  But we also don’t really limit things either.  DC1 has to do hir chores before even thinking about using the ipad.  DC2 gets to use it if DC1 isn’t using it for chores and if we feel like zie hadn’t been watching too much or not getting enough parent time or what have you.  I do suspect that this may be part of why DC2 isn’t dramatically improving with reading skills the way DC1 did at this stage (the other part being that this preschool isn’t academic like the one DC1 went to at this age/stage).  We were also much better at controlling *what* was watched by DC1, so there was a lot more educational programming.  There are a lot of things I really dislike about netflix, and not being able to keep specific shows from appearing on the kids screen is a big one.  (We did eventually get rid of the youtube app because that always ended up either with someone twerking or, worse, with one of those women advertising for toys talking about how princesses/girls/women really enjoy shopping and make-up.)

So I don’t know.  We sort of set limits but they’re not hard and fast limits, they’re lazy limits that have a lot to do with how busy we are and what else is going on.  We don’t treat it as a reward.  They watch it on a device these days and used to watch it on the movie projector.

There are a lot of parents who would condemn us, and a lot of people who think we’re hippie weirdos.  We are what we are, which is mainly lazy.  Our kids are going to be amazing no matter what, so whatever, yo.

What were your parents’ policies growing up?  If applicable, what are your policies now?  How do you access media?

Am I a tiger mom?

Eh, maybe a little.  DH and I push our kids.

We’re not so far up the SES ladder that our kids can rest on their laurels– we both broke into the upper middle class this generation (DH from the rural working class, I’m first-gen on one side and come from a long line of middle-class working women on the other).  And OMG is it nice to be upper-middle class.  The stresses we don’t have that our parents had and that DH’s siblings and cousins still have, I can’t even.  Every day I’m mindful of (and thankful for) this miracle.

We got here from climbing the academic ladder and playing by the rules (and, of course, luck).  From pushing ourselves, and maybe being pushed a little bit too.  Well, not maybe, definitely.  (DH’s siblings, while not upper-middle-class are definitely doing much better than his cousins.) Definitely from being pushed a little bit too.  Our kids will have more freedom and latitude to maybe not play by the rules, but having that academic ladder cleared will certainly help if other ventures don’t work out.

A’s now mean life is easier later.  Challenges now mean that there’s less likely to be complete melt-downs in college.  So we push.  Not to breaking, but occasionally to leaving the comfort zone.  So far the discomfort (often followed by breaks, and then by trying again) has always led to epiphanies and growth, just as it should.

There’s no shame in getting a B, but a B also means that the material hasn’t been mastered.  There’s room for improvement and that’s a target to work on.  So, in that sense, Bs are addressed.  Material is mastered and then some.  Even if it’s not that interesting.  Even if school sometimes has arbitrary rules.

Granted, our kids are truly brilliant, and they’re highly capable of mastering many many challenges.  So it’s easier to have a home with the underlying belief that Bs aren’t good grades.  We have justifiably high expectations.  I have students who, as hard as they try, won’t pull off As in four classes a semester.  But it’s my job to get them to master as much of the material as they can, and it’s their job to try.  If my kids go someplace where they’re truly challenged, then even Cs may be fine as long as they’re still getting where they need to go, but they’re not there yet.

For K-12, A’s are pretty important.  Especially if they’re not going to fancy high schools that colleges know by reputation.  I trust that my kids will work hard and if they don’t get As it won’t be from lack of trying, but I also know that we will work hard to stem any damage by filling in knowledge gaps should a lower grade occur so that it won’t lead to downward spirals down the line.

DH and I have both gotten Bs in our high school and college careers, but not that many.  I think DH even has a C on his college transcript.  And, possibly related, we haven’t always gotten into our top choices for things.  But we keep working and we keep trying.  And that’s the message we want to send to our children.  That’s how we push.

Did you get pushed as a kid?  Do you feel like that affected your adult life?

Ask the grumpies: favorite shows/movies for kids

Leah asks:

What’s your favorite shows/movies for kids?

My little pony: Friendship is magic.  Except the first season has a couple of problematic episodes in terms of race. Oh why oh why oh why did they feel it necessary to include the magic negro trope (Zecora) or to trade native buffalo land for apples.  I mean, really?  But with the exception of those two episodes, it is a wonderful wonderful feminist series that is really entertaining for all ages.

Imma go old-school:  Reading Rainbow, back in the day.

(#1 notes:  both my kids hated Reading Rainbow because it is SO SLOW)

edit:  related tv for toddlers

What are your recommendations, Grumpeteers?

Ask the grumpies: How do I ignore a terrible pediatrician?

Rented life asks:

What to tell pedi who says LO needs more sleep and shouldn’t wake got 10 hrs. Zie wakes after 6, nurses, sleeps again. Some nights 8-9 hr total sometimes 10 but never in one shot

“Can I get my kid’s records transferred to my new pedi?”

I wish. Sadly there aren’t many options where we live. The other place our friend’s brother has a huge lawsuit on bc they put rods in his back that had known bacteria problems…I generally don’t go to the dr because of these stupid things. But with the kid, I want the immunizations, etc.

In that case, we recommend the say nothing and continue doing as you damn well please method.  The human race wouldn’t have survived if kids couldn’t figure out how to get the right amount of sleep. Seriously.  (Exception for actual sleep disorders.  A baby sleeping for 6 hours and waking up when hungry is not a sleep disorder.)

In which we teach DC1 how to bend the truth…. er I mean estimate

DC1 has a lot of homework at hir new school.  One of the homework things is that ze must read for at least 30 min/day at least 4 days a week.  Ze has a log that ze has to fill out that says how many pages and how many minutes and what the title of the book is and then we have to sign it.

Research on intrinsic motivation has found that with good readers, intrinsic motivation decreases when kids are paid to read.  With poor readers, their intrinsic motivation actually increases as they become better readers.

This regular homework assignment is not for people like DC1 who already read a lot and are already excellent readers.  This regular homework assignment, is, in fact, really irritating for everyone involved at home.  DC1 began by bringing a timer every time ze started to read and would try to remember to turn it off and the add the minutes etc.  Ze would get very frustrated when ze forgot.  Or when ze didn’t remember the page number count.  We kept not being able to find the timer when we needed it for say, cooking.

The final straw was at 3am when DH was gone on business and DC1 somehow rolled over the timer after falling asleep with it in bed and set it off.  This happened two nights in a row before I figured out where that @#$32ing beeping was coming from.

At that point I decided it was time for DC1 to learn that not all assignments have to be followed to the letter.  Sometimes you need to just get the spirit right and/or to show the minimal when you’ve checked off a box even when you’ve actually done more.

So we’re estimating.  Every time ze reads, ze puts down at least 30 min, that have been estimated.  Ze guesses (based on past reading) how many pages were read.  Ze puts down one of the book titles that ze read that day.  No need to be exact.  No need to record everything.  No need to put down a session less than 30 min.

I’m not sure if this is a good life lesson for DC1 or not, but it does fit in with our grand theme of lazy parenting and fixing things when they make our lives more difficult.  In an ideal world we would have checked with the teacher to make sure it’s ok, but we know this assignment really isn’t for DC1, so it’s just easiest to you know, bend the truth estimate than it is to explain why our kid is a special snowflake.

Middle school leaves scars

We’ve had this post title for a really long time in the draft.  And we know exactly what we mean.  But… we really don’t want to talk about it.

Middle school leaves scars that can hurt well into middle-age, possibly longer.  They’re revisited less frequently with age, but occasionally we will be reminded to feel completely socially inadequate, even though we’re adults and we know it wasn’t us it was them and once we were allowed to control who we spent time with we were no longer friendless or bullied or ostracized.  But the scars are still there.  Scars that one of us is trying her best to keep her children from ever acquiring.

John Green says it well.

 

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