"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." --Marianne Williamson
I know that you think that Nelson Mandela said this, which he did, but he was quoting Marianne Williamson, so I will give credit where credit is due. This is one of my all-time favorite quotes, it makes me excited to be alive and pursuing dreams. The Mugwump (oldest son) has given me much reason to think of this lately and I would like to expound.
The Mugwump has a new trick that drives me nuts. He will obviously throw himself to floor or bump his head on purpose and start crying that he can't do something. He used to be so independent (and still can be), what is going on with this new trick? Don't worry, you don't have to answer, I think I've pretty much got it figured out.
He wants attention. He sees Six-Pence (the younger brother) fall and hit his head and everyone rushes over to help. Or you hear Six-Pence crying and find him signing help with his hands and then pointing to what he needs. It is his way of communicating and it gets him attention because there are so many things that he is unable to do on his own. The Mugwump can do most things, but wants attention. We try to give him attention, but not when he is acting below his means to get attention.
This is where it gets interesting. We are working to give the Mugwump more attention (his reward) when he is doing things for himself and ignoring (disincentive) his little tantrums where he pretends to be completely incompetent. It's crazy how counter-intuitive this is, it is really hard to give attention to a kid that is playing contently on his own, but to ignore the obnoxious four year old that is sprawled in the middle of the floor saying that he can't get up because he has hit his elbow (when you just saw him fake the fall). I hope that it's not just me, but it seems that we as a society tend to reinforce incompetence.
Let's take a look at the educations system. How many people know someone who teaches a special education class for kids that can't keep up with the rest of the class? I know of several. How many people do you know that teach classes especially designed for elementary school students who are excelling in reading or math? I don't even know that this exists. Sure they have advanced placement classes in high school, but you know the type that take those classes... They're labeled dorks for excelling. So our society gives attention (and therefore reinforces the behavior) to those who are below average, while creating a disincentive for excelling.
As a graduate student, I teach activity classes. What do I do with the uncoordinated kids that aren't good at the sport I'm teaching? I spend time with them and help them improve their skills. What do I do with the students who enter the class at a more advanced level? I don't spend as much time with them. I think this is the tendency as a teacher, and I think that it is unfortunate. The advanced kids in my class deserve the time and attention that it will take them to excel at the sport. The beginners in a class also deserve time, but are no more deserving as others. Although in my situation I don't find this as crucial, when we are talking about my kid in a class of 30 that doesn't get the same attention (reward) because he already excels in math or reading, this is a big deal.
"If you treat an individual...as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be" --Goethe
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive." --Harold Whitman
In combination I find this quotes interesting. What makes me most come alive is simplicity; working to get back to nature by doing without many of the common conveniences of life. To the majority of our society this is associated with failure which is a sort of disincentive for me to pursue this dream. Although I don't care a lot about what others think of me, it is hard to ignore. So as I pursue what makes me come alive I am constantly told by society that I'm failing because I'm not obtaining enough.