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to think 'you can do anything if you try' is not a helpful message?

(84 Posts)
ChasedByBees Mon 13-May-13 18:01:37

I've just watched something on ceebeebies where the moral of the story was 'you can do anything if you try'.

Well no, I can't fly without mechanical aids, I can't invent a new col

Habbibu Tue 14-May-13 21:45:22

No, I meant I use the bike example to show her what she has achieved through trying, and help her to motivate herself through something tricky.

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 14-May-13 18:21:48

'what a man can do is ok, what a woman can do is awesome'
'what a man can do another women can do better'

Hope that neither of you have sons

garlicyoni Tue 14-May-13 16:51:17

... sorry, missed off the bit that should have said you teach children to ride their bikes by promoting the joy inherent in making the effort - not starting from the premise they can do 'anything' if they 'try'.

garlicyoni Tue 14-May-13 16:49:36

Yeah, but when you teach your child to ride her bike, you spend nearly all of the time going "Whoo-hoo, you're doing it! Clever girl!" If you started off by telling her to "try" and do hands-free wheelies, you'd be facing a long and miserable experience.

Habbibu Tue 14-May-13 13:29:20

I think it's probably easier to make sense of for children of you can show them something concrete; dd was struggling with something a while back (can't remember what), and I was able to remind her that she firstly hadn't been able to ride a bike, then not a bike with gears, the not one-handed, all of which she can do now, so she has demonstrable achievements through trying hard. So "look at what you achieve when you try, even though some days you thought you'd never manage" is better, if not so pithy, for us.

AmberLeaf Tue 14-May-13 13:19:44


Marking place.

FasterStronger Tue 14-May-13 13:02:19

juggling - i agree with some of what you say - i was seeing JE as sportswoman not celebrity. inspiring sport in general rather than heptathlon specifically.

there is good competition and bad completion. Good competition = doing your best, seeking self improvement, learning. bad competition = hating others beating you etc.

i think we have too much bad competition and too little good. and just because you try, it does not mean you will always succeed but you will get used to overcoming failure.

Loa Tue 14-May-13 12:36:37

I suspect its a messaged aimed at the DC round here who by 3 are already well used to being told what they can't aspire to angry.

It does have some truth - as long as you allow for lateral thinking.

Instead of saying I can't grow wings so lets give up the whole flying thing - people thought well I can't grow wings how else can I experience flying - which give us stories, myths people created to all the technology that allows people now to experience flying in many differing ways.

The hard thing is knowing or accepting the point where it would be more productive to go and do something else.

dancingwithmyselfandthecat Tue 14-May-13 12:34:28

Someone once said to me that "effort can be a reward in itself". I think that's a really useful message (NOT for women in abusive relationships, obviously). I am one of the most hopelessly unathletic people you could ever dream of meeting. No matter how hard I would try I could never win a set of tennis or shoot a ball into a goal. However, through diligent effort I could enjoy the effect of becoming a little bit less awful each time, of knowing that I had got a bit sweaty, worked off some calories and stretched my muscles (which is, after all, the basic purpose of school sports). Equally, I could be top of the class in pretty much anything academic with no work but if I put in the effort, achieving that little bit more, understanding it a bit more deeply, not having the stress of flying by the seat of my pants I could find it a lot more satisfying.

Most things in life we won't 100% succeed at. Provided they were useful, realistic things to do in the first place we won't have failed by wasting our time if we can take something away from it and if we have provided something useful to someone else.

Samu2 Tue 14-May-13 12:32:17

I had this exact conversation with my almost 14 year just last night. He told me I could do anything I wanted if I tried hard enough, I mentioned how I will never be able to fly and he said "yeah, it is a really silly thing to say now I think about it"

MadBusLady Tue 14-May-13 12:32:09

I wish I'd known that giving up isnt the same as failing.


And also, actually hard work doesn't always pay off. I read a lot of jobs and careers advice columns where people are absolutely convinced that they landed a particular job/career because they worked hard. What about all the people who worked hard, but didn't get the job that they got instead? What about people who are good at stuff that happens to be very competitive? Do those who don't get jobs/promotions all work less hard than all the people who do get jobs/promotions in less competitive sectors? Of course not. It makes no sense. But everyone is working off a sample of one and believes that correlation equals causation.

It is possible to really, really want a thing and work very, very hard at it and still have it not happen. That's ok, though. You are still the same person you were before. You are not diminished.

It has taken me the whole of the length of my childhood again to work this out, basically because of damaging messages like the one in the OP.

I guess the conservative philosophy is based on the idea that we could all "get on" if we "worked hard"
Illustrated by the idea that our DCs taking SATS this week should all reach the expected level 4, regardless of underlying ability and inherent individual differences.
As you say Decoy the diversity of people's skills, experiences, and circumstances makes it all a bit more complicated than that !

Society is over competitive and celebrity obsessed though don't you think Faster?

I don't especially want my DC's to aspire to be the next Jessica Ennis - I'd rather they just say "I can't decide which athletics event I like best Mum, they're all great" - I think that would be a better indicator that they had the right attitudes and skills mix to have some potential for success in that arena.

In any case my aspirations for them are more that they will be able to live happy and fulfilled lives. A degree of success in achieving their chosen aims and ambitions may be an element in this.

Decoy Tue 14-May-13 11:57:06

I think it's an important lesson that even the hardest work and effort doesn't always lead to success or good luck. Often it can pay off, but not always.

I don't agree with the right-wing ideology that "hard working people" always get what they deserve and anyone who has experienced setbacks or failures isn't "hard working" enough. Life just isn't that simple.

FasterStronger Tue 14-May-13 11:18:01

I agree with Birds and Expat.

Adults should not take life advice from CBeebies. but there is nothing wrong with young children learning to aspire - after all someone has to be the next Jessica Ennis and why shouldn't a 3 yo dream it will be them?

as you get older it should be modified to add realism. I always think someone has got to get through this bad situation/win this thing and it could be you. if you act in a particular way, you can increase your chance of it being you. and it you don't try, chances are, it wont be you.

Toadinthehole Tue 14-May-13 11:07:03

I don't agree with the premise of this thread.

There's nothing wrong with telling children that hard work pays off.

I very much doubt that many children are taken in by the idea that one can do literally anything if one tries hard enough. I remember someone making the same comment at me when I was about 8, and saying at no matter how hard I flapped my arms I wasn't going to fly.

What we should be telling children is that steady work means they will be just fine: if they want to be really good at something, hard work is required, and if they enjoy doing that thing, so much the better. We should also be telling them that it's OK if they don't have some great hidden talent. Most of us don't, after all.

In the meantime my DD1 tells me her teacher says "everyone's talented at something", and interpreting that as meaning she doesn't have to work to develop her talents.

expatinscotland Tue 14-May-13 10:05:51

Anyone who takes life advice from CBeebies is destined for trouble.

DeWe Tue 14-May-13 09:51:22

Aim for the sky, and you get to the top of the tree. Aim for the top of the tree and you stay on the ground.
Surely that's saying "you will always see yourself as a failure"? Or "You will never achieve as good as your aim"?

Probably a better one for children would be "if at first you don't suceed, try and try again". Encouraging them to get up and give it another go if they didn't manage the first time.

Although the CBeeBies message I got very irritated about was Bob the builder: Spud does something having been told explicitly not to. Causes extra work for everyone else. Says "Aw sorry" and everyone says "that's okay" hmm So it's okay to be deliberately naughty as long as you say "sorry" at the end.

OhLori Tue 14-May-13 09:21:54

Agree. I've always thought this a foolish expression that has very little to do with reality.

Enjoyed watching your video link Waffly - very interesting and really watchable with the accompanying cartoon visuals. thanks

cory Tue 14-May-13 09:14:11

I think it is quite possible to instill confidence in young children without going the whole "you can do absolutely anything" hog.

Teaching them to concentrate on trying hard for its own sake, because it is good and fun to try your absolute best at something you want to do, teaching them how to handle failure, teaching them to compete against themselves. Their confidence will grow as they see themselves improving.

"No point in trying" is a deadening message. But so is "if you try hard enough, you simply have to succeed". There are plenty of messages in between.

VerySmallSqueak Tue 14-May-13 08:23:45

Another saying of course is 'setting yourself up for failure'

Loads can be achieved but it's all to do with realistic expectations and determination and drive and hard work.

And there is nothing wrong with failure if from the outset you allow that option and decide whatever the outcome you are going to learn something along the way.

RonaldMcDonald Tue 14-May-13 02:40:04

It feels as though we set crazy goals and then fail to meet the standard required
better to try to teach to be happy in yourself and in enjoying life no matter what you do

garlicyoni Tue 14-May-13 02:31:55

I do think a universal characteristic of women who've been in abusive relationships, is their capacity to endure, to keep trying in the face of adversity.

Oh, YYY, Double sad

garlicyoni Tue 14-May-13 02:30:29

YANBU! It's absolute bollocks and is preparation for the even bigger lie "If you can dream it, you can be it."

Dangerous, life-defeating shite, all of it.

Any behavioural psychologist will tell you that "Trying", as an objective, is self-defeating. Trying carries failure within it - you either do it, or you "try". Make the effort instead.

There's nothing wrong with aiming high, playing to your strengths, finding out how much you can do (it will be more than you thought, as long as you didn't buy this superhuman positivity rubbish), and enjoying the effort. All of which people have done, very successfully, for thousands of years.

You'll be amazed at what you can do when you give it a go!
Just do your best, that's great!
Have a go, see if you want to learn how to do it better smile

Just don't fucking "try", OK?

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