“TRYING” is Banned in our House.

There are various reactions when I say to people our kids aren’t allowed to ‘try’ things. They are usually negative, except for the occasional person who looks at me and just smiles.

The explosive negative reactions sometimes die down – after I’ve endured another lecture. I tend to walk away or change the subject after those reactions. At other times people are genuinely curious and I’m then happy to explain.

Our Kids Do or They Don’t.

Mr Three wants to climb the fence. He does or he doesn’t. He began when he was very small by climbing up one plank. By the time he was two he could climb to the top of the fence. From then on he had about six months when he wobbled as he lifted his leg to get over the top. So he didn’t climb for a while. But, he was soon back at it. He’s competently climbed over the fence for almost a year now. He didn’t climb over and then he did. No trying involved.

Our middle son was pretty much the same when he learned to ride his bike without training wheels. He asked Craig to remove the trainers when he was about two and a half. He couldn’t ride the bike. He couldn’t ride the bike. He couldn’t ride the bike. Just after he turned three and a half, he went outside one day while I was busy and rode his bike. He didn’t and then he did.

The header photo is of our 10 year-old, who one day decided to cut the bottom off a 2litre milk bottle and use it to blow a really big bubble. He didn’t manage and then he did.

Both the older boys are expected to be kind, work hard and have fun. There is no need to try.  They are kind to other people and animals or they aren’t. They either do their best work or they don’t. They use their manners or they don’t. They have a great time and know when to stop at the natural end of the joke or they don’t.

They also know they can choose to do or not to do, but they don’t get to choose the consequences.

They are kind to people = People are more often than not kind to them.

They are mean to people = No one wants to play with them or have anything to do with them.

They work hard at school = They achieve as well as they can.

They don’t work hard at school = The rest of their schooling isn’t going to be as easy as it could be.

They use their manners = They get more adult input and conversation.

They don’t use their manners = They are ignored and dismissed by adults.

They have fun = They get the endorphin (etc) rush.

They don’t know where the natural end to the fun is = They get a shot of cortisol as someone expresses their discontent or the cat scratches them.

TRYING is not an option. TRYING means they aren’t doing. TRYING makes them victims. TRYING teaches them that they have no control in their lives. That is why TRYING is banned in our house.


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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12 Responses to “TRYING” is Banned in our House.

  1. sarah says:

    Interesting perspective. I can see where you’re coming from. These days the emphasis is on the process rather than the goal. I’ll have to give a lot of thought to what you have written here – so thank you for that! I do disagree on one point, it’s my belief that people can and do choose the natural consequences of their actions. They choose what works for them. So they are nice to people because they choose for others to be nice back. Or they are rude to people because they choose to be disliked, because that serves them in some way (usually a deep dark psychological way!) I believe this choosing is what motivates people in their behaviors. In an ideal world we would behave in certain ways (ie, good ways) for the sake of it. But we are all motivated by the expected response from the world.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sarah. I love to hear from readers. I think you’re saying the choosing that people do is non-conscious (from learned experiences) or unconcious (automated by biology) so their choices aren’t conscious? I completely agree – consciousness/mid/ego is an interpretive mechnisim not a directive mechanism. By taking the doing or not doing approach with our boys we keep the ownership of their decisions with them so that the non-conscious bits of their brains have as much experience to draw on as possible when they do have to make decisions one way or another. Their expected responses, as you call them, will be built upon reality not imagined fears (when parents overprotect) or imagined fairytale outcomes (when parents praise or encourage) or lack of autonomy (they are used to us and the rest of the world saying no and are resilient enough to know they are still good people without that particular success).

      • sarah says:

        I agree with what you are saying here about trying/not trying and how trying-not-doing leads to imagined consequences rather than real ones. That’s an excellent point. What I was saying (badly) is that guess it’s difficult for me to bypass my psychology training, because I honestly can’t imagine explaining behaviour as anything more than an effort (conscious or otherwise) to elicit a certain consequence.

        • I’m all about challenging people, Sarah – sorry if I made your head hurt! The drive to complete a challenge is unconscious/archetypal/biological in children, in my opinion, so don’t throw out the psych training. It’s the (well intended) interference in this natural process, from adults, that makes it more of a head/mind/ego experience and undermines many kids’ natural progress. And with the social expectations like manners and working hard – they either do or they don’t, and I try not to interfere too much with the natural consequences of those, besides, it takes a lot of arguement out of the house. Thanks for popping back and adding to the conversation.

  2. IfByYes says:

    Very Yoda!

  3. Pingback: “TRYING” is Banned in our House. | Bino and Fino

  4. jessie says:

    what an interesting way of looking at it. i’m going to pay attention to when i say “try” and see what i have been meaning by it.
    i think i have been using it (now that i’ve clarified by reading what you wrote) as “put forth some effort and see where you are at on the “do” or “do not”.” can you or can’t you? often, they may feel like they can’t, but if they begin the process and put forth effort, they will find they surprisingly can.

    • Yes! For things like manners and kindness, I think it’s a simple: yes I did/no I didn’t. When attempting new skills I see each step on the way as it’s own accomplishment. By not using “trying” – it keeps the motivation and energy with them (it’s not about me), it also seems to have made them a lot more self-assured – they have a really strong sense of what they can and can’t do, and what *they* want to do next. By me disengaging from their process they seem to be achieving at a higher level, earlier, than I imagined they would, too. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  5. Elena says:

    I remember reading a book once that had a list of four words that you should never say, and “try” was one of them. “Hope” was another. (I can’t remember the other two… in my defense it was almost 30 years ago!) The gist was, one should not be wishy-washy, nor half-assed. One should set one’s mind to do something, or not. I think what we picture in our minds is powerful, and words such as “try” and “hope” can be used as intermediaries, to aid us in posturing as though we were on the brink of action, without actually engaging. Far better to engage, whole-heartedly, leaving the middleman in the dust as we move forward toward the goal.

    • We are definitely NOT into wishy-washy half-assed living! I really like what you have added here: the image of waiting on the edge and never actually diving in and doing what we intend to do, is spot on. Lovely to have your comments, as usual. 🙂

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