As our boys grow up, we need to increasingly treat them as young men. Do they always get it right? No. But they do get closer as we make our expectations clear and then gradually raise the bar. Which brings us to the expression:
Raising a son is like teaching a chicken to play baseball.
If you took Psychology 101, perhaps you remember the term, “operant conditioning.” The example my college professor gave us was the way an animal trainer teaches a chicken to play baseball using a system of rewards to shape the bird’s behavior. It begins by determining a “reward” for the chicken, something like a tasty food pellet. Placing the chicken in a small area with a tiny baseball bat, each time the chicken approaches the bat, he receives a food pellet. Quickly he learns to enter the cage and to move toward the bat. Then the trainer adjusts the reward system so that the bird only gets a treat by pecking the bat, then by placing his beak around the bat, lifting the bat, and so on until slowly, step by step, the chicken has mastered striking the ball with the tiny bat. The process is called “successive approximation,” moving in successive steps closer and closer to the desired behavior.
Shaping our boy’s behavior is something like that process_ deciding what behaviors we hope for in our sons; finding the rewards which motivate them; then patiently, persistently and consistently, watching, rewarding shaping until, at long last, we see the desired action.
Now, most of us are not as focused nor as consistent as the average animal trainer. And, the behaviors we seek and the “animals” we train are far more sophisticated and complex. Still, as we think about the “nurture” of boys, every day in just about every way, we are slowly, step by step building the young men our sons will become.
Oh yes. . . one more thing. The MOST SIGNIFICANT “reward” we have to offer our kids is our love and approval. Don’t forget to notice what they’re doing right and comment on it! Think of your words as fertilizer. . . what you sprinkle your words on grows . . .if that is your boy’s negative behavior, expect it to grow. If what you comment on is his positive actions, step back and watch!
Hope it’s your BEST baseball season ever. . . know what I mean?