Monday, October 11, 2010

Kids perceptions / Choice - selection or construction SDT and CPS

Parenting imho should be concerned with the kid's perceptions. I often remind myself and others that we are dealing with their perceptions and not their behaviors. We need to try and see their world through their eyes. Kids can make meaning of what we do to them and how we respond. ' It is not what we teach them , that matters but what they learn ' - Alfie Kohn. Often when we think that they need to be taught a certain lesson that their behaviors are unacceptable, they learn another lesson , - their mistake is being caught and their perception that parents or adults are unfair is reinforced.

But kid's perceptions can be exploited to support more controlling types of parenting especially in certain cultural settings. See the appendix Unconditional parenting by Alfie Kohn

If we place importance on children's perceptions without relating to what kids objectively need for their development , kids will not be receive the kind of parenting and teaching they deserve, an education which will promote academic, socio-moral and emotional development .

Some  kids may be less adversely affected by physical punishment because they perceive it as parental concern and love. But the question is even if a child could reconcile acts of aggression ( even without anger ) as a act of love and attention is it a good thing for kids to learn that love can be expressed through violence?

How do kids come to perceive violence as an act of love. When physical punishment is the only alternative to indifference kids learn to take what they can get. The same can be said about praise. If conditional acceptance is the only possibility, kids will drink it in and even say that they wish they'd gotten more. And when researchers ask these kids about how their parents treated them or if their parents loved them or they felt loved unconditionally they will give positive answers. They would see parental control and punishment as supporting the need of relatedness.

According to SDT , Self Determined Theory rewards would have a positive effect on perceived competence and hence intrinsic motivation if we could neutralize the controlling nature of rewards. If kids perceived competence means that kids see themselves , the self as an object as ' smart ' or A students they are likely to avoid challenges , seek out easy tasks and be less engaged in learning indicating a adverse effect on intrinsic motivation.

What about kids' perceptions of autonomy. Now most parents and kids don't know what the word means , maybe something to do with independence. ' To be self determined is to endorse one's actions at the highest level of reflection. When self determined people experience a sense to do what is interesting , personally important and vitalizing.' - Deci and Ryan. It is about being connected to your inner core , being reflective and experiencing a sense of freedom.

Now many parenting books recommend giving kids choices as a strategy to get kids to do want you want. So good advice would be to first connect with your kid and then ask him whether he wants to eat now fish , meat or salads. We want the kid to come to the table and eat his supper , he will want to exercise choice so he will choose ' meat' and come to the table. This seems to be the middle of the road type of parenting or authoritative parenting. The permissive parent will ask if the kid wants to eat supper , the authoritarian parent will order the kid to come to table to eat supper and to eat what is put on his plate.

There is a different way – CPS collaborative problem solving. Kids are encourage to participate in planning and problem solving by ' generating choices ' . In this way they express their autonomy and relatedness by addressing both concerns – theirs and parents when they attempt to find mutual satisfactory solutions.

When parents offer choices and it does not matter if the choice is between 2 or 20 options , it is still Plan A , it is still the adult plan , do it my way and my way is A, B, or C , choose one of them. Allowing a kid to do what ever he chooses Plan C does not necessarily mean that the kid's choice is made at the highest level of reflection. Plan B is where reflection and expression of autonomy and relatedness takes place.

With Plan A the kid is choosing from choices the parent or teacher has generated. With Plan B kids are the origins of their choices , they are the ones who generate choices.

Alfie Kohn makes this point in his article ' how to create non-readers'

Supporting their autonomy isn’t just about having them pick this over that. “The experience of self-determination is not something that can be given to the student through the presentation of an array of teacher-determined options (e.g., ‘Here are six books; which do you want to read today?’)”[9]. I think there are two insights here.

The first is that deeper learning and enthusiasm require us to let students generate possibilities rather than just choosing items from our menu; construction is more important than selection.

The second is that what we really need to offer is “autonomy support,” an idea that’s psychological, not just pedagogical. It’s derived from a branch of psychology called self-determination theory, founded by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, among others. To support students’ autonomy is to meet their need to be in control of their own lives, to offer opportunities to decide along with the necessary guidance and encouragement, to “minimiz[e] the salience of evaluative pressure and any sense of coercion in the classroom” and “maximiz[e] students’ perceptions of having a voice and choice.”[10]

A kid may have a perceived sense of autonomy when he is able to ' select ' a choice from options given by his parent or teacher , especially when he has been accustomed to have been given absolutely no choice in the past. I doubt whether the selection/choice is accompanied by an endorsement of one's actions at the highest level of reflection.

Kids will not be receive the kind of parenting and teaching they deserve , an education which will promote academic, socio-moral and emotional development if we rely only on their perceptions of autonomy , competence and relatedness.


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