The Thank You Phenomenon

Feedback is something we underestimate in every area of our lives. It can be as simple as a “Thank you” or a “Well done” and can change the way we perceive ourselves and other people. It can help us be better, work harder and understand our strengths and weaknesses.

The trick is that feedback should always be empowering not designed to undermine. That’s the hard bit. The kind of feedback we need to do better tends to be delivered in a way that erodes our confidence not empowers us to do better. I suppose that’s why they call it constructive criticism.

As a parent I rely on feedback from teachers and the school in order to understand how I can better benefit my children. I need this loop in order for us all to work together in raising happy, confident people. Sometimes this breaks down as adult pride gets in the way and we struggle to understand the inner workings of a child. Putting our own needs aside can be incredibly challenging. It’s far easier to point fingers at each other.

The school psychologist is an amazing, gentle man who has managed to reach Small boys aged 6 and 9 where the rest of us have largely failed. I don’t know if it because he is a man and they feel more comfortable with him than with a woman. God knows I’m not comfortable discussing PMS with a man so it could be.

He called me this morning to give me detailed feedback on his sessions with both boys and outline a way forward. This gives me confidence as a mother and a great deal of relief knowing that someone is focussing on addressing their challenges in their school environment. I know the teachers do the best they can, but with 20 or 30 boys in a class they can’t focus on my children to the detriment of everyone else, so having a personal session makes a big difference.

Small boy aged 6 struggles to assert himself. Although he has confidence he tends to shelve it and forget that he can assert himself. He puts on funny voices and accents to help himself deal with difficult situations and topics of discussion. I usually get the Leprechaun voice. Together they have acted out different scenarios and situations using puppets and his confidence between the first session and the second has increased exponentially. He is now much happier to use his big voice.

Going forward I need to learn how to empower him with the understanding that his choice of actions can affect the outcome of a situation. When he tells me of a situation that was unpleasant at school I need to ask him how he could have acted differently and what the outcome might have been. I may have to offer different scenarios for him to choose from. Sometimes what we think as parents may be right isn’t, and if he there was a seminal work on perfect parenting it would be a best seller. Still we all have to muddle along doing the best we can.

Small boy aged 9 is a different prospect. He’s always been the type of person to stand back in a new situation or with a new person until he has got their measure before he will interact. Although he feels deeply, he struggles to communicate those emotions. As a result the relationship of trust between the psychologist and the Small boy has been slow to develop. Once gained nothing will break his loyalty though.

Small boy aged struggles with self-confidence and the belief that he can complete a task and perform. He is more aware of his weaknesses than his strengths and allows his fear of failure in the challenging areas to affect his performance in the ones he can excel in. We need to empower him to face new challenges and accept that there are some things he will do well in and others where he can learn to perform well by learning the skills to overcome his weaknesses.

No one is brilliant at everything, but some people seem to be. It’s only later we get to know them and realise they faced the same challenges we did. Nothing that looks effortless ever is. I had a friend at school who could swim like the man from Atlantis, while I stood on the side of the pool shaking in abject terror. Watching her cut through the water was a thing of beauty. But, it wasn’t through lack of punishing training. Every morning, every afternoon come rain or shine and regardless of the freezing temperature of the water, she’d be there at 5am training. That’s what it takes. When she got to med school she used the same focus to excel there as well.

Was she ever afraid? Did she ever doubt herself? Sure. She’s human. The most important I learnt from her is that the greatest rewards in life are worth working for and that the only person you are ever truly in competition with is yourself.

I wear my insecurities like a safety blanket. I know my own weaknesses better than anyone. The peculiar thing is that other people know my strengths better than I do. I doubt I’m alone in that. That’s why feedback is so important. That’s why little words like “Thank you” can make the world of difference.

Just a quick aside, we had a great meeting with a broker for VC capital today. I hope this will bear fruit. It is a very interesting process to go through this making something out of nothing. Terrifying and daunting, but oddly exhilarating. I find this whole preamble rather frustrating. I just want to do my thing.

Now thank the Lord above half term is starting today, I might even take some leave myself to regroup. By that I mean sleep. A lot.

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