“Who’s making pancakes this morning?” said Jerry. “We will!” said Ellen. “But we want help!” said Fenner in a half-whine. “We like it when you help, will you help us?” “I’ll help you,” said Jerry.

I stayed upstairs to get dressed, but I could hear them in the kitchen. “Stop that whining, Charlotte!” said Jerry, “I like it much better when you say …” etc. etc. The shriveled whine-weed got a little drink of water. Oh, well.

I walked down stairs and right away things weren’t sounding good. “No, no… this is the pan you want … that looks a little too thick, Ellen, let me add some water … no, you have to wait, it’s not hot enough, you just turned it on.” “Daddy, it’s sticking!” “Well, did you add the oil?” “No.” “Fenner, you have to add oil every time … here, no … go all the way around the edge to unstick it … ok, Ellen, turn it down to medium, you’ve got it on high and that’s why it’s too dark…Fenner, try not to let it drip like that.” “Well, dad, you didn’t tell me how to keep it from dripping, why didn’t you tell me?!”

Ooo, boy, I thought. This is painful to watch. Nobody’s smiling. The only bright spot was Charlotte. She didn’t want pancakes and she went about her business quietly making her own breakfast, and feeling quite good about it because no one was telling her what to do or how to do it.

Jerry kept going. “Fenner, get ready! You better flip that, it’s ready to be flipped! … Here Ellen, you want me to make you one?” He took the pan and poured the batter. “Dad, are these ready?” asked Fenner. “Yes, they look ready.” Fenner brought them to her plate. Meanwhile, Jerry flipped the pancake he made for Ellen. “Daddy, you flipped it. I wanted to flip my pancake!” “Well, I’m just trying to get this done so I can move on to other things.”

I sat at the table with Fenner and Ellen who were both slumped in their chairs, half-heartedly nibbling at the pancakes on their plate. “I don’t like cooking,” said Fenner. She looked on the verge of tears. “Why?” asked Jerry. “It’s too complicated,” she answered. “Fenner, cooking is all about experimenting and learning from your mistakes. The best cooks have years of practice.” “Well I don’t want to be a cook when I grow up!” “Don’t be discouraged, honey,” Jerry continued, “trying different things, that’s what makes cooking fun.” He walked back into the kitchen, and Fenner said under her breath, “Cooking’s not fun.” Then she said, “This doesn’t taste good.” And she pushed it away and left the table.

“Um, honey?” I said, “We should probably talk about what just happened.” “What?” he said. “That did not go well. They’re really discouraged.” “Well, cooking is hard, they just need some more training.” “The problem is when training feels like criticism.” “Yeah, I know. Plus that pan’s old and sticky. I think what I’ll do is get a new pan and then have them watch me one more time while I make the perfect pancake.” “No, I’m sorry, but you’re not doing that. Perfectionism is not a good thing to teach.” “Ok, but they need training, I just need to show them how to get the batter just right and how much oil to use.” “You don’t think you’ve shown them that already?” He thought for a minute. “Well, they don’t know how the get the batter right. I’m not even sure sometimes, I have to just keep adding things until it’s right … I suppose I could look on the box.” He got the box and looked at it. “Hmm, 2 parts to 1 … but we tried that and it was too thick.” “The thing is, honey, letting them figure out on their own how thick the batter should be is the kind of thing that builds confidence.” “Yes, but I’m just afraid they’ll get frustrated with it.” “Well, out in the world they’re going to get frustrated and they’ll need to know how to deal with that.” “Ok, well, then I guess I should just get out of the way, just leave them to do it.” “I think that’s a good idea. How about we get that new pan, and take ourselves away, and we can say that they can come and ask us questions, but without the hovering over their shoulder.” “Yeah, the hovering’s not good because then they ask me every little thing.” Right.

Phew. Deep breath. New plan. Try again next time.

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 4: Four Mistaken Goals of Behavior

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