22 Mar 2010

It's not the reward

Last week after his gymnastics class, Thomas came to tell me that he'd managed to do a back flip without help and on the floor. He was very proud of his achievement. Lady also "got" her back flip (to use their terminology) a few weeks ago. As I'd done for his sister, I shared his joy, expressed my pride in his hard work and hugged his beautiful and strong little body. Later when I was downstairs I noticed a new gymnastics trophy on the shelf. "Oh that," he said easily,"I won it today for getting my back-flip."

I was really happy to see he had taken more pride in sharing the accomplishment of the move instead of the reward, relished the intrinsic satisfaction and not the extrinsic prize. Just getting his back-flip was all the reward he needed.

Wish I'd been less focused on the praise and the prizes when I was his age and I might be less influenced by how I think others see me now.

8 comments:

Kassiane said...

They're getting GOOD! That's a big skill (and so much fun too!)

*high fives* across the atlantic (is that right?) from one backflipper to 2 others.

David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...

"I was really happy to see he had taken more pride in sharing the accomplishment of the move instead of the reward, relished the intrinsic satisfaction and not the extrinsic prize. Just getting his back-flip was all the reward he needed."

This is exactly how self-esteem is developed... from the intrinsic reward that comes only from having accomplished something, not from the trophy one gets for having done it.

jypsy said...

Kassiane can likely concur - no trophy could ever compare to the feeling of finally "getting" something like a back flip. It seems silly really to get a trophy for such a thing. It would be more appropriate to give a trophy for your 100th, 500th or 1000th try at something like that (to reward your perseverance). It's just way too hard to keep count.... Way to go guys!

David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...

"It would be more appropriate to give a trophy for your 100th, 500th or 1000th try at something like that (to reward your perseverance)."

I'd not even bother if it was a 1000th attempt and not a lot of progress was being made... I'd shift attention to another activity... the frustration factor would likely have a person really at their wits' end. The adage 'practice makes perfect' isn't actually true: perfect practice makes perfect. So if after even 100 reps, someone hasn't mastered a sequence of actions, then it is not likely that things will go further without frustrating them.

Task analysis is good for this... because it enables one to see the individual elements of something (e. g., a back-flip or a similar type of gymnastic move) and chain them together in an orderly sequence that then enables the person learning the activity to perform it more like it should be done.

That would enable the learner to piece together the action being learned, and it would allow them to perfect the sequence before starting to practise it more intensively. This is what is meant by 'perfect practice makes perfect'.

If the action to be learn proves too hard to get at the task analysis stage, then maybe other activities should be considered. Maybe I should consider sport psychology as a career!

jypsy said...

"Maybe I should consider sport psychology as a career!"

I wouldn't have wanted you in my life if you were going to tell me to quit before I got frustrated trying to get something.

David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. said...

I'd have said that I'd advise moving to another activity if frustration was getting too much: because when frustration gets too much, people do not do well. At least, in the main, they don't. And I know from many people's experience that along with too much frustration came a lot of damage to self-esteem. I'm sure I said anything about quitting; rather I said 'move to another activity'. That is different, and is certainly advisable in most cases.

But I would ask someone if that activity was something they definitely wanted to do, because that would determine whether something was a good idea to carry on with in the presence of so much frustration. When I was training in karate, we had a policy to not get too bogged down in the repetition of activities without any gain. We used to examine the issues involved on an individual basis and look at what was realistic: I have a shitty left leg, from surgery as a 13yr-old... no real power in it, so left-foot kicks were very hard for me. And when the kicks came - either in kata training or in kumite training - left-foot kicking was not helping me just by keeping on keeping on.

Had someone told me to keep on practising without getting those techniques right, I would have suffered a shitload more self-esteem loss (and having been hanged at school and worse, that was not an option, given the loss of self-esteem I experienced as a result of that).

I might advise that such can happen when repetition practice does not result in improvement. After that it's the client's/person's own responsibility. And I've seen people get really pissed off at trying and getting nowhere... and I've seen how things go after that. And I certainly wouldn't want someone to go through that crap on the way to possibly not achieving some goal.

If they wanted to carry on, then I'd have advised a change in how training sessions were done, to take into account individual factors with respect to the person training in that activity.

But sadly - like it or not - many of us are not destined to become the Karate Kid; I wasn't. And instead of spending years doing something that did not come easy, I went into something that resulted in some positive experiences. And got my self-esteem up by that means. But that wasn't an easy route either.

As for advising quitting before seeing about alternative methods of getting somewhere... you misunderstand me totally. But there does come a time when the law of diminishing returns kicks in and - like it or not - self-esteem loss will become almost inevitable. And my job, if I'm helping someone in some pursuit, is t try and make sure that self esteem is not lost.

Now, if that makes me a crap psychologist in your view, Jypsy, then so be it. But taking that route helped me to support the learning skills development of a number of people who would otherwise have gone into mild depression and - in one case (because his job depended on him passing the course) - worse.

So I'm not sorry about how I'd advise people, and if you don't like it... that's your issue.

jypsy said...

I never said 100 times *in a row*. If "moving to another activity" means moving from a back flip to an aerial cartwheel, and not from gymnastics to football, we are not in disagreement. I don't recall the frustration being bigger than the challenge at hand. My drive to keep practicing came from inside, not from someone else.

Sorry I misunderstood you.

Jean said...

What a dude your fella is!!! he sounds very mature xxx