Wednesday, August 29, 2012

CAN'T; another swear word

Instead of dividing the world into the possible and impossible, divide it into what you’ve tried and what you haven’t tried. There are a million pathways to success.

Thirty years, or so, ago I was looking for ways to encourage my kids to believe in themselves, develop independent thinking and come to the belief that they could do anything they wanted to do.
I recognized that success is a habit and likewise so is failure.  A common refrain from our children when asked to do something new or learn something new such as learn to play the piano or learn a foreign language was, "I can't!"  This word in response to attempts to do something new and seen as insurmountable was/is a cultural habit all too common.  In fact the use of can't was/is so inculcated in our society that it could easily be seen as habitual.

I believe in the kernel of truth in the quote attributed to philosopher Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

How to teach this to my kids?  My dad was a great lecturer.  As the recipient of many of those lectures I knew first hand how ineffective a technique that is to motivate change.  And my approach to teaching my kids was to do it differently than what I found unsuccessful  in what my parents did with me.  On the other hand, my parents taught me that you'll respect the value of money better if you earn it yourself.   I carried on that tradition with my children and they all had various jobs through the various stages in their growing up from snow shoveling, lawn care, paper routes, and dishwashers at local restaurants. One painted houses and another was a lifeguard at the local State park.  The oldest proceeded from dishwasher to hostess.  Each of them learned an early and lifelong respect for the dollar earned.  So  in keeping with that tenet, I thought perhaps a system of fines might work as a behavioral modifier.

Most folks have heard about a swear jar as a way to discourage members of their family or work group from lacing their conversations with racy and or profane words.  We decide to expand on that concept to include certain common words of negativity.  This list was composed of many if not all the not contractions: can't, won't, couldn't, wouldn't, hasn't, aren't, isn't, and did I say can't.

The purpose of this experiment was to develop a thought process of putting thoughts in a positive light; even the negatives, because we didn't want to create pollyannnas but rather critical thinkers who could find different, ways of presenting their thoughts.  Force them, in other words to consider alternative routes to a solution.

The fine for using the "not" contractions was a dime.  But it didn't stop there. There was a way to ward off a fine.  When someone noticed your negative and pointed it out, you could immediately find a more positive way to state your point.  However changing "I can't do it" to I can do it was not satisfactory.  Example: I can't get up at seven AM could be stated like this; Because I stay up late at night I'm too tired to get up at seven.  No fine.  It forces one to examine the whys and wherefores of their comments.

Caveat:  I'm currently in a FB exchange with my sixteen year old grand daughter over this "can't" issue.  She says, "I can't get someone else to change their mind.  I'm not being pessimistic, I'm being realistic."  My response:  If it's important to you to change a persons opinion you can and will.  It comes down to what is important to you.

Adopting the habit of saying I can will give you access to success;  Just saying :-)


Blogger Bee's Blog said...

This sensible and readable piece of writing is so near to my heart. Been there and done that. Know exactly how it works and am constantly reminded by my children that there was never room for "I can't' because my response was always, 'you mean you won't'!

Pays off eventually though. I am sure you will be your grand daughter's inspiration.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Helena said...

My youngest is so crafty with words - he's a little demon with turning the negative to a positive to suit him. Similar to your example, I suppose.

It's a marvellous post, Rel. I'll probably be back for a few reads, myself!!

8:31 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

I love this post, Rel. I, like Helena, will read it again, too. I feel inclined to forward it on to my nephew and his wife...they are raising two little children.

Wisdom should always be passed on...

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah i'm sorry but i would never charge anyone for swearing that is absurd and other negative words come on you can't overcome negativity without knowing it first

7:54 PM  

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