Monday, April 30, 2012

Anti-Snowflake Training, from an Anti-Helicopter Parent

Yesterday, I happened to find myself in conversation with an anthropology graduate student who does summer camp work with adolescents and teenagers. I had mentioned Twelve, and asked him, mostly jokingly, if he had any advice on how to successfully navigate the upcoming descent into her being awful. To my surprise, he actually had a response! He suggested positive reinforcement.

The idea of positive reinforcement struck a bit of a delicate nerve, actually. Lately my feedback to Twelve's performance of her household tasks has been more along the lines of get-back-in-here-and-do-it-right, so there's room for improvement there. I can always do better at remembering to comment when she does a good job, I replied thoughtfully.

Later, though, I realized that if she's not doing her tasks properly, giving her positive feedback is a terrible idea. The last thing I want is for Twelve to turn into one of the overly delicate 'Snowflake' students that post-secondary educators so love to complain about [points to self]. These students complain about low scores because they spent so much time/worked so hard on the assignment, when in fact they failed to follow the damn instructions/produce the right answers. Somehow, the connection between Doing it Correctly and Getting a Good Grade is missing in their brains.

Experts tell us that these members of the Millennial generation have been raised with so much positive reinforcement that they don't know how to handle failure when they (perhaps inevitably) do. Their 'Helicopter' parents also tend to keep awfully close tabs on their college experiences, going so far as to contact instructors directly to demand grade adjustments.

Ummm ... I think I'll decline the opportunity to Helicopter around Twelve when she's in college, thankyouverymuch. Not-Helicoptering has worked really well so far, after all, and to be perfectly frank - I don't have time for that shit. Calling instructors to complain that she didn't get a good enough grade in Writing 121? I'm sorry, but I have better things to do, like re-mow the grass that I just freaking mowed last weekend.

Twelve, if you have a problem with a score you earned, fair and square, you're going to have to whine to your instructor yourself. Only ... please don't, since chances are you're attending a university at which we know at least one faculty member, and I really don't want to get that phone call.

So, my conclusion? I'm not going to praise Twelve for sub-par performance. She's perfectly capable of doing her tasks correctly, so when I find a glass that's smeary, I'm going to hold her accountable as best I can. I need to work on this, actually, as it's often so much easier to just re-wash the glass myself. At the same time, when Twelve does well, I'll make a point of letting her know that I've noticed:

Twelve, these chocolate chip cookies are delicious, and it's very thoughtful of you to bake them for your volleyball team. [Pause] I'm an honorary member of your volleyball team, right? [Eats six cookies.]

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