Mittwoch, 21. August 2013

Know Thyself, But Not Too Well

"Know thyself" would seem to be a good advice, especially when it comes to one's intellect. Adults who are cognizant of their intellectual strong and weak points can organize their lives accordingly, seeking out opportunities to make the best of what they do best and learning to compensate when their natural or acquired talents are less than ideal for a particular task. Such metacognitive skills, as most cognitive skills, improve with age. But intuitively it would seem that, at any age, people in touch with their mental skills would be at an advantage to people who are out of touch. This is likely true in most situations past the age 9 or so, but it does not seem to be the case for young children. Young children's cognitive immaturity with respect to self-knowledge has some advantages. By not knowing what they don't know yet, children attempt tasks that are currently beyond their ken and their physical abilities. Yet, they are frequently unaware of their less-than-stellar performance. As a result, they continue to explore their world, feeling competent and confident, and along the way acquire some useful information that more "in touch" children may have missed because they would be cognizant of their failure ("If at first you don't succeed, quit - don't make a fool of yourself").
Adults do their part to perpetuate young children's feelings of success. Parents, teachers, and even strangers in the grocery store often confirm young children's feelings of accomplishment. Whether adults do this intentionally to bolster children's self-esteem or perceive the attempts of young children as "cute" and thus worthy of praise isn't always clear, but most adults are more than willing to lower standards of success for young children and applaud their attempts at performing "adult" tasks.
Young children expect success, and, as far as they're concerned, they usually achieve it. Such optimistic opinions of their own abilities are easily seen as something children will outgrow. In fact, children do outgrow their very positive and overly optimistic attitude about their own abilities, usually by their third or fourth grades. But their unrealistic optimism is actually something to be valued and protected. Children who believe they are skillful and in control are more apt to act that way. Rather than rudely awakening them to reality, adults can make the most of young children's optimism, encouraging them to practice new skills and praising them for their "success". The bottom line is that children who feel successful in these early years will likely be successful in the long run.

David F Bjorklund; 2007
Why youth is not wasted on  the young - Immaturity in Human Development

[A great book.]

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