• Katy Harris

Encourage 'caring' more than 'trying'


‘Trying’...is a concept we all ask of our children at one time or another. So we tell them you should try harder with math’, or ask them, ‘could you try and be nicer to your brother’? We want them to put effort into tasks and relationships and believe that additional 'push' will prove worthwhile. If you carry out a simple functional task, such getting a glass of waster, And add 'trying'...how do you do it? What bits of that task are you 'trying' in? Now if you add caring, or careful, that's a different matter. Caring requires that you move from a position of care-less and into care-more....which involves specific thinking about aspects of the job and how to add value to it. Careless....is simply not bothering enough to think and perform with any notion of standard Caring ...is being conscious of the appropriate way to manage and aiming towards it

(children sometimes ‘care’ a little to avoid ‘trouble’, though it is much

better if they care because they remember that it will bring improved

result and reaction) Careful ...is being aware of the 'better way' to execute the task AND what others expect (and how they might appreciate the additional mental or physical energy added). There is also the additional aspect of a sense of 'gain' in adding consideration of the task or useful effort...a possibility of others noticing the quality of the endeavour or even the creation of a self-approval element – feeling proud of a job done with good intention and follow through.

It can be good to encourage children to evaluate the level of care being used or to suggest a little more , wondering ‘how would that result be different if you were using/adding care?

Noticing the elements of care when it is present really helps. When children become aware of their capacity to

  • assess the requirements of a situation,

  • remember past processes and

  • persist to meet known standards

then they are choosing to put attention on specific aspects of the task and understand and learn the cause and effect of their own motivations.

It is especially useful to notice areas of life where children do add caring and help them be conscious of transferring that skill. The careful listening offered to the soccer coach could then be used in the classroom, or the gentle handling of their pet could be translated into kind touch with a younger sibling.

If a child thinks they are ‘trying’ by adding effort, or they are simply believing more effort is required for thing, their inner batteries will deplete. So using effort specific to the task or situation conserves energy to be put to use at exactly the right time. Once we have learnt a skill we can reduce the amount of effort used – a little – and move that energy towards are latest goal.

If we return to the job of getting a glass of water the child might be conscious of where they place their glass under the tap, or how carefully they turn the tap, or how precisely they carry the glass, or how much balance is required.

These sub-skills can then be transferred to other situations. We can call this ‘trying’ hard but it isn’t simple addition of effort – it is adding assessment, intention, planning and performance.

All this is about PROCESS, not outcome, and something I have written about before – but we can never have too many reminders that setting a bar and asking someone to jump over it, isn't nearly as useful as considering the task, finding the means to manage it and choosing to practice because you know the intrinsic worth of the jump.


© Family SOS 2015