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January 29, 2012

Tip of the Week 

Insurance Against Mediocrity 

Make Sense

What it is?  To “make” is to create something new by combining or reshaping other things.  To make “sense” is to create understanding out of another person’s idea or experience.  Consider the analogy of a ham sandwich and your idea of appreciation:

·         Making a ham sandwich takes ham, cheese, and bread

·         Making sense of your idea about appreciation takes vocabulary and experience

Why It's Important: To influence a child, the child must be able to make sense of your messages. 

The Problem:  It's difficult to explain to kids abstract value ideas that took us years of experience to understand ourselves. There are two “duh” ideas to consider:

Idea #1: All the resources must be available. To make a ham sandwich you’ll need the right ingredients. To make “sense” of appreciation you’ll need the right vocabulary and your child will need the right experiences.   

Idea #2: Everything must be recognizable. You’ll need to be able to identify the ham, cheese, and bread as ingredients for a ham sandwich. To recognize them will mean that you’ve experienced ham, cheese, and bread put together in a sandwich.

You would have experienced a ham sandwich.

The same holds true for your appreciation message:  a child will need to understand the words you use—to have experienced the words—in the context of appreciation.

The child would have experienced giving and appreciating 

So making sense is really creating new understanding by combining words you already know and experiences you’ve already had. 

Consider the wisdom of Ben Franklin,

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Ben is saying that, greater learning and understanding is a by-product of greater physical involvement.  In this context, “making sense” includes making an idea physically experienced through a person’s physical senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.


The more involved the senses

The more something makes sense


The Tip:    Create a Giving Experience

One of the promises I’ve made to my boys is to teach them how to be happy by choosing to do things that make them happiest.  Giving is a happy endeavor as long as you know what to expect—or not to expect. Try creating a giving experience and then be ready to debrief the result.

Step 1: A Labor of Love Pick something that your child has a talent or fondness for doing, such as cooking, drawing a picture, cleaning, laundry, etc. Just make sure that whatever your child chooses to give isn’t something your child can buy with money or that he doesn’t like to do. You can read about my son Jack's experience in Good Deed Frustration.

Step 2: Surprise Someone Special! Plan to surprise someone with the gift.

Step 3: Debrief Regardless the appreciation expressed by the recipient of the gift, chances are it won’t be as great as the built-up expectation your child anticipates receiving.   In other words, disappointment may be part of his reward. This is your golden opportunity to help your child make sense of giving and appreciation.

·         Not everyone will appreciate the time and thought that went into a labor of love so when sharing something like this, make sure to choose the recipient wisely. 

·         Know the difference between giving and trading:  If you expect something in return then you’ve initiated a trade not given a gift. Both are fine, by the way, just know what which one you're doing.

Benefits: It Makes Sense!

Influence – Now that you’ve established understanding, you have a common ground from which to influence. Cool!

Appreciation – All the gifts that you’ve given will be valued differently—yes, even the time you’ve spent doing laundry.

Leadership – Your child will begin to prioritize his time and effort for the best outcome.

Happiest – Trading and giving are different and both are great. Now your child has the ability to choose which will make him happiest in any situation.

Choice – Consciously choosing whether to give or trade means your child will receive less disappointment in return for his labors of love.

Freedom – Knowing the difference between giving and initiating a trade, your child will feel less obligated to other people from whom he or she receive gifts. One extreme example: Boys sometimes initiate an unspoken trade expectation when they buy girls dinner or other things.  Recognizing a “trade” like this frees the girl to make a trade or to simply appreciate the gift.

Related Articles: Good Deed Frustration, Communication Part 4 – Style, Attraction,

Related Tip of the Week: Articulate, Change, Powerful Listening 1, Not Nice, Accept vs. Agree


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