Mini-golf and learning

Whack! Whack! Whack!

That’s my 4-year-old playing mini-golf. He discovered the joys of the game this spring in Florida.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

He doesn’t care what his score is. He is unconcerned about what others think. All he knows is that if he hits the ball enough times in roughly the right direction, eventually it’s going in the hole.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

We encourage him after every stroke: Good job! Try again! You’re getting closer! His ear-to-ear grin shows his joy. His gradually-declining totals show that he’s improving.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

We don’t have to be brilliant to be successful. But we do have to be persistent and unafraid. When do we lose this?

Whack! Whack! Whack!

As my 4-year-old gets older, he’ll get better at learning from his mistakes. But I hope that he always retains his lack of fear and his willingness to persist. Because the world is his oyster if he does.

10 Responses to “Mini-golf and learning”

  1. There’s some interesting research on how to motivate kids through praising effort over skill.

  2. I love ‘Putt putt’ (Ausi version of mini-golf) stories because very young children have to negotiate near-adult challenges – and parents have to negotiate supporting positivley the near impossible.

    Playing snooker with my 4 year old daughter very similar experience. She prefers the simplicity of rugby, but enjoys the Newtonian challenge of ‘bigs and littles’ and even when a bar full of teams(bistro – it is a child friendly enviroment) wait she will not relinquish the table.

    ‘One of the 6 rules in Johnny Bunko’ Dan Pink’s new book of career advice is ‘persistence over talent’ – The tragedy is to now know that not only have I been lazy over the years I’ve also wasted talent!

    Great book put it on your summer read

  3. Great Post! I think that is a great question. There is a fear of failure that eventually gets built into our framework which limits our activities. At some point protecting our reputations becomes as important or more important than learning new things. There may be benefits to that kind of thinking, but trial and error + persistence is a great way of learning that we use less and less the older we get.

  4. We want instant results, fast, efficient learning in our drive-through, society. Persistence and learning by trial and error takes time. Of course, the results from this type of learning are often much more effective and meaningful.
    Trial and error style of learning is not really encouraged or rewarded in educational circles where failure is bad. Rather than risk failure, most just play it safe.

  5. When our teachers tell us what to do instead of asking us questions.
    When they say in Kindergarten no, this is the right answer
    When our classmates tell us, No, teacher said do it like this. . .
    When the Mom of our best friend says it looks like you need help, let me do it for you.
    When we finally learn through schooling and friends that there is only one way to do it. Some don’t choose to learn and become part of those that decide there has to be something better. The rest of us conform and play the game to be “successful”.

  6. What a great post that I am sure made many of us smile as we remember the moments of playing miniature golf with a young child. My boyfriend’s little girl is 8, and she hits it at least 7 times to get it into the hole, but her score is always less than 5. I love that!!

    One of my friends has a daughter who is starting school next year, and she is studying to see when exactly the school will zap her love of learning. Gosh, I hope we don’t really do this. I have two cousins who have great parents and they speak frankly about playing the “game” of school. They realize that it is a hoop to jump through so that they can go to college and learn what they love. Yikes. When will we get it????

  7. I’m learning a great influence on our goal setting is our own self-destructive talk. So often we can be our own worst enemy. Children are wonderful allies to their self-concept. They can “putt” along with kindness and encouragement.

    I’m happy to read your son won’t be learning about fear of failure from you. I guess other adults and peers may one day give him the messages.

  8. This posting was well-timed. I was just raising the question with a friend of why, in secondary education, we’re so enamoured with the idea of teaching our students to be life-long learners. After all, humans are learners by nature. It’s only after joining the system of a school where natural learning behaviors are supressed (and in some cases punshied) that we STOP being learners and instead become responders. Perhaps as “educated adults” we need to learn from our kids on this one instead of the other way around.

  9. TKL: I do not and will not believe that joining a school system stops children from learning and turns them into responders. What a blanket responder kind of comment.
    We don’t have to be brilliant to be successful. But we do have to be persistent and unafraid. When do we lose this? The loss of persistence and courage comes from many different arenas in a persons life. Some loose it at home with parents who are not encouraging, some loose it at school and find the easy road of responding, some loose it in college when the fear of failure and lack of job offers kicks into view, and others just loose it in the day to day activity of living life.
    I have not lost my persistence or courage to learn, I went to school, so how can this be possible with your statement.
    Let’s be courageous and persistent enough to look for the positive as in the original example comment about the child and mini golf and not respond with school bashing as ultimate answer to the question.

  10. Awesome image! Scott’s son is a great example of anyone trying something new in an atmosphere of trust and support. My first golf outing was a fiasco, but it was among friends that I trusted. They were brutal, but jovial about my lack of skill. I hacked away, finished with a score counted in lost balls instead of strokes, and enjoyed some refreshments with friends. It took some time, but I slowly experienced a few more rounds of golf, got a little better, and now can at least be proficient enough to keep some dignity in the clubhouse. My joy of learning, however, dips dramatically when it is the outcome that matters. When my game becomes “important” or has “value” beyond just the fun of the game.

    In her comment, Melissa uses “game” slightly differently than I have above, but is it the fault of the school or those good parents that “play” it for their benefit? Maybe it is both, but it’s much easier to blame a system without names or a pulse than it is ourselves.

    Scott poses this thought in his post, “We don’t have to be brilliant to be successful. But we do have to be persistent and unafraid. When do we lose this?” When life becomes a contest and we keep score, living becomes work that we have to do. When does that happen in each individual life? Like many questions, it really just depends…Does the competition for grades and success in school drain some joy? Probably, but as Tina K. notes, so do a lot of things around us. I would submit that following the advice imparted at the end of her post may rekindle some of that which has been lost…”Let’s be courageous and persistent enough to look for the positive…”

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