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  • Janice Gold Beyer

The Beautiful Not Yet

How "not yet" is a significant message by which to encourage a child.


My husband and then four year old daughter, Lydia, were fishing off the shores of Raystown Lake when a woman walked by and asked Lydia, “Did you catch anything?”  Without skipping a beat and with a big, proud smile on her face she answered with a resounding “Yes.”  Puzzled by her answer, I wondered if I had missed the moment when she had caught the fish.  My reverie was interrupted when I then heard her add with delight, “Just not yet.”  A spontaneous smile crossed my face and I was warmed by her joy and hopefulness about this fishing endeavor. I recognized it as a powerful statement, but hadn’t parsed out its meaning - - not yet, anyway.  

What Lydia embodied in that exchange was a concept that has been highlighted by researcher and psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, and by marriage, family and child counselor Dr. Jane Nelsen.   Dweck’s work is described in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  In it she articulates the concept Growth Mindset, which is a person’s belief that their intelligence and abilities are not static, but can be developed. In other words, they can “grow their brain.”  People with a Growth Mindset have been taught and understand that the neurons in their brain are making new and stronger connections when trying something new and, perhaps, more difficult.  They are then more willing and able to try new strategies and seek assistance from others when they encounter an obstacle.  They believe that their effort matters.  For Dweck, in the phrase “not yet” is the understanding that “you are always on a learning curve; it gives you a path to the future.” Dweck believes that “wise praise” can help create a child’s Growth Mindset.   

Dr. Jane Nelsen is a counselor and author of Positive Discipline.  Her work is based on the belief that encouragement is a foundational component in the process of developing a child’s healthy sense of self and the courage to engage. Dweck refers to this process as “wise praise,” Nelsen calls it “encouragement.”  We can use these words interchangeably because both view it as a crucial ingredient needed to foster a child’s confidence in themselves and in their inner resources and capabilities.  According to Nelsen, praise teaches reliance on external feedback.  She has said that, “when you praise students you put the spotlight on the student and when you walk away you take the spotlight with you.”  On the other hand, encouragement teaches internal validation, motivation, effort, risk taking and a focus on the process. Commenting on a child’s effort, focus, progress, tenacity, willingness to seek help, and willingness to attempt different strategies provides a way towards perseverance and, hopefully, a confidence and joy in the process. “Not yet” would then be a significant message by which to encourage a child.  

Other words you may want to consider using to encourage your child:

• “I notice…..(describing the specifics) ” instead of “I like…..(relating your own judgement)”

• “I believe you” is a way to validate feelings

• “You are learning…….”

• “You figured out how to do that”

• “You gave it your best. How do you feel about your accomplishment?”

• “Tell me how you did that”

• “You did it”

• “I see that you are……”

• “You are sticking with it even though this is hard for you.”

• “You are equal to this task”

• “You can do this hard thing”

• “ You came up with a new way to approach that after thinking about it.”

• “That test reflects your hard work”

• “You recognized an obstacle and were willing to seek help”

• Show empathy - “It’s really frustrating when that happens.”

• “What do you think/learn/feel?”

• “That was a new approach you tried.  You can really learn from your mistakes.”

“Not yet,” I discovered, also emanates from the arts.  Serendipitously it would seem, I just became aware of a new album release by my favorite singer-songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, entitled, The Beautiful Not Yet.  Throughout it, she sings of hope and encouragement with lyrics like, “It’s not easy, I know, but I believe that it’s so. You can do this hard thing.  Morning will come whistling some comforting tune for you.  You can do this hard thing.  Impossible just takes a little more time. We’ll see it through. You can do this hard thing.” 

Encouragement is in the air -- all of our children are capable of growth and we are all capable of creating an encouraging atmosphere that our children need to thrive. 


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