In our rush to control our children’s experience, we forget that people sometimes learn most from attempting to do those things for which they’re not naturally gifted.
As a child, my most obvious talents were musical, and although I studied classical piano for 20 years, I turned out to be an artist—no doubt because, not in spite of, of the challenges art continues to present.
I don’t practice yoga because I’m naturally flexible, but because I’m not.
In Lawrence Wechsler’s biography of Robert Irwin, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, Irwin says:
In my years…as a teacher, I’ve seen it over and over again. It’s the kids with the greatest facility who can run up against the biggest problems. You are the best in your class without even trying, which is the best way to learn nothing…The not-so-facile kid just plugs along, every step is a working step, and he comes to the twentieth step and it’s just another step. But facility is a funny thing—it takes you way up, you soar, and you look like you’re really doing something—but at a certain point you go as far as you can with facility, and then you hit the big questions. And for you, who’ve never been pressed, that can present a huge roadblock. I’ve seen a lot of kids get waylaid at this point…
I’m convinced children are best served when the quality of their effort is applauded, rather than their success. ("The process is the reality," as Samuel Johnson said.) And because there’s a Times article to back up every opinion, here’s Praise Children for Effort, Not Intelligence, Study Says, from 1998.