All posts tagged Rick Ackerly

10 More Encouraging One-Liners

faith in the childAre you looking for even MORE encouraging responses to use with your children? Would you like to step back and allow your children more practice in decision making, cause-and-effect and creative thinking? If you do, we have 10 More Encouraging One-Liners to help create space for trial and error, modeling and problem solving. PLUS we have a few *bonus* suggestions from Rick Ackerly.

Note: If we go about each day with a goal (to use encouraging phrases), we will find it easier to slow down, relax, let go and say, sure- let’s see how this plays out (instead of reacting, steering or trying to control the outcome of ALL the ups and downs, bumps and hiccups along the way). Good luck and please share your encouragement tales!

  1. Can I join you? (Instead of assuming: I can join just because I’m the parent.)
  2. How would you fix this problem?(Instead of saying: What a mess! or Look what you did!)
  3. I never would have thought of that. (Instead of wondering: WHAT ON EARTH are you doing?)
  4. Hmmm…interesting choice (Instead of reacting: NO WAY! Not ice cream for breakfast!)
  5. That was a mistake. Oh well. (Instead of commenting: You should’ve done this or that.)
  6. What an improvement, don’t you think? (Instead of hinting: You’re not getting the dishes 100% clean.)
  7. I’m sorry. (Instead of acting like: I’m right just because I’m the adult.
  8. I noticed how hard you tried to do that. (Instead of noticing: Why didn’t you get it right?)
  9. I’ve learned a lot from you. (Instead of claiming: As a parent, I teach the valuable lessons).
  10.  What you did made a difference in the situation.(Instead of: Focusing on the outcome, ignoring the effort).

Bonus! Rick Ackerly added:

“You can handle it.”
“What was the worst thing about that?”

“Oh can be said with many different inflections. You might want to practice them in front of a mirror or with a fellow parent–take turns saying “Oh” to each other.” – Rick Ackerly

Remember: your face, tone and body language can say something very different than your voice. Have fun and let us know how it goes!



Focus on What You Want

focusIn a previous post,  we refreshed the topic of “internal” vs. “external” motivators and how they affect children’s learning and thinking process. There is plenty of research, from Ackerly and other experts, saying reward systems are not the way to go if you want self-regulated,(calculated) risk takers, and problem solving thinkers.This applies to home and school – it’s easy to toss a treat, sticker or a bribe but it’s not moving your child in the direction you’d likely prefer. Even if we know this, the question can become, well then what do we focus on?

Learning Organizations Focus on Objectives

In Rick Ackerly’s article,  1st Grade Teacher Shows How to Design an Instant Learning Organization he  showcases one classroom (Janet’s classroom!) that has adopted mission-based learning vs. rule enforcement systems. (Anyone recognize the do not feed the weed similarities here?).

The Outcome: A Problem Solving Community Where Mistakes are Part of the Process

After Ackerly highlights how to create a learning organization, he says: “…by focusing the students on educational objectives rather than rules, Janet has made herself the leader of a group of motivated learners. Now her job is helping them with their mission, rather than keeping them in line.  Furthermore, defining a social “situation” as a problem-solving opportunity, focuses energy where it ought to be—becoming smarter.”To bring this a bit more into the Duct Tape Parenting context, “water what you want to flourish” is essentially a sentiment that can be adopted into the classroom. By focusing the students on a common set of goals, the energy in working together to meet those goals increases, and likewise the “problem” behaviors – those behaviors that “rules” tend to water and bring to the forefront, have far less purpose. When a classroom accepts mistakes as problems to be solved vs. rules that have been broken, children can usefully fold this learning into their personal academic experience.

What Does it Take? Elements of a Learning Organization (Or Mission Based Leadership vs. Enforcement Leadership)

  • Mission – Decide why you want change in your home, classroom, work session.
  • Strategy- What is the thinking / knowledge behind the mission, as it relates to YOUR situation?
  • Design– How are you going to enable this mission? What tools and structures will you put in place? What do the children bring to the mission?
  • Plan– How are you and the children going to execute the mission? What are the actions that will put in motion the change you’ve designed, strategized and established as the mission?
  • Summary– Reflect and notice what you’ve created- pay attention to what is working and what isn’t.

Have you done this in your home or classroom? What does your learning organization – at school or home- look like? Let us know! 

Video: Montessori Madness – The authentic Montessori classroom operates as a learning organization because the focus is on learning through trial and error, interest, self direction and with an objective of discovering a child’s true self in relationship to the world. There is an inherent trust in the child that is found both in the Montessori classroom and in Rick Ackerly’s learning organization.

Key Parent / Educator Questions

Rick Ackerly QuoteIf we, as parents and educators, believe that every child is driven by an internal “genius” – an energy that naturally, without adult steering, will lead toward the discovery of the true “self” – then it is essential to keep asking ourselves, with every activity, lesson or during the daily grind:

  • What is the goal of teaching?
  • What is the goal of parenting?
  • Is the goal to “GET” good behavior?
  • Or is the goal to “foster the unfolding”of the self?

At the End of the Day

If the goal is simply to achieve “good behavior” then it truly doesn’t matter which support systems (internal or external) we choose to implement in our homes and/ or classrooms.

However, if the true goal is to raise thinking children who can, and will show up, discover themselves, solve problems and learn through experience, feedback, mistakes and natural consequences, then we can give ourselves permission let go of beliefs that do not support this goal.

Instead of focusing on external structures like punishments and rewards or rules and authority, we can choose to step back and support the “genius” by trusting the child to learn and grow, even though mistakes and messes are sure to happen.

We can do this because we believe children are driven to find the right path, want to engage with the world and will discover a sense of self without our interference.

At the end of the day, we, as parents and educators, can never stop asking ourselves – what is the goal?

“Focusing children’s attention on a discipline system is a waste of human resources, because all children start off loving to love, create and learn.” – Rick Ackerly

Internal Motivation Infographic

infographic, internal motivation

Click to see the INFOGRAPHIC

Children naturally enjoy doing valuable work and are not afraid to make mistakes- they learn to discover success through feedback from peers, teachers, materials and so forth (not just because they follow rules or get a sticker).

When nurtured, respected and trusted, internal, or intrinsic, motivation leads to the same desired outcome: positive or “good” behavior.

Beyond that, the child has a more enriching experience as he or she discovers the world, vs. discovering how the adult sees the child’s role in this world.

What are your thoughts?

Where have you seen intrinsic motivation in action?


Accolades: Thieves of Discovery

Rick Ackerly Quote on AuthorityIf you have a child in school, then you may know first-hand how schools are employing external motivators (both positive and negative) to entice our kids into doing their homework, following playground rules and behaving appropriately in the classroom. You may have seen the latest and greatest star charts, GOOD JOB stickers, goodies, currency (allowing kids to “shop” based on the tokens they receive), parties, consequences, and zero tolerance policies and so forth.

These systems may lead to “good behavior” but they are the thieves of discovery, wonder, trial, error and trust in the child. While rewards and punishments may seem fun, positive, necessary or even logical, adult imposed systems aimed at steering behavior affect both the child’s mind and the inquisitive process or “genius”.

What Goodies and Stickers and Punishments Really Do (and Say)

Motivation by goodies and rewards shifts a child’s focus from satisfying the internal “genius” to following an external, imposed authority and infrastructure.

The child’s internal voice stops saying, hmmm, I’d like to discover OR wow, I notice ____ and is replaced with the externally imposed voice asking what will I get OR how can I make this other person happy (so they like me and give me a pat on the head)?

In short, the child now is thinking: if I do this, I get that.

Likewise, using “punishments” or rigid discipline rules also steals the child’s focus. It replaces the joy of discovering through trial and error with absolute compliance. Instead of having the courage to make mistakes and a desire to gather feedback from choices, our children spend their time worrying about being sent to the time-out chair or losing recess time or not earning a bright smiley sticker.

It also sends a message: hey kid, before you even show me you can handle it, you aren’t to be trusted, so we, the adults- the authority- have put in place all kinds of ways to “get you to behave.” Of course many teachers do not overtly think this way, but if the school operates in such a manner, they are challenged with delivering choice and problem solving against a current of imposed thought.

The Messy Stuff is Where Magic Happens

When an entire learning structure is dependent on a system of do and do nots, children miss all the messy learning in the middle. They are not encouraged to ask, try, challenge or discover a new way because the “right way” is laid out for them.

They don’t practice taking risks or judging for themselves what might happen if….For example, what if a child decides to break a “rule” (we walk in the the classroom) to rush over and help a friend?

Perhaps it was worth it and he makes it safely. Perhaps he falls on his face. Perhaps the friend ignores him when he gets there. Or perhaps he gets a huge hug because he showed up. That’s the kind of learning that happens in the day of a child.

In Rick Ackerly’s article, What do Good Parents and Good Schools have in common? He addresses this issue- the confusion of adult authority in children’s lives and the energy spent “keeping things from happening” vs. “making things happen.” He says,

“The key to the door of our authority prison is this: Don’t underestimate children. Act as if this child has a genius, a teacher-within with whom we can form a partnership” and “seeing children for what they really are: creative, decision-making machines whose central purpose is to self-actualize, to become authorities.”- Rick Ackerly

In life, we all know from our own mistakes and risks, there are situations where hard and fast rules do not mean the same according to context.

Is the RIGHT choice always the one that will get you the sticker? Is a “punishment” necessary if you’ve truly learned through experience? Our children deserve the space to answer these questions for themselves, while they’re young and wildly fascinated to learn what it takes to become a competent, cooperative human being on this planet.

Does your child attend a school heavily dependent on stickers and goodies? Share your stories in the comments.

Interested in education topics? Wondering how to bridge the home-school communication? Sign up for our upcoming workshop with Rick Ackerly.



The Genius in YOUR Child

atuhentic selfEvery child, according to Rick Ackerly, is born with a guiding energy or “genius” that drives the child on a grand quest to the discovery of his or her authentic “self”.

This “genius” or curiosity “spark” is what propels children to naturally enjoy learning how to participate intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically with the world. This “genius”  inspires children to happily discover through trial and error, observation, movement, language and so forth, all the intricacies of being human.

This “genius” guides children down the exciting path of self discovery and cannot be imposed or “engineered” – it must come from within.

Questions to Ask Ourselves as Parents

  • How often do we, as adults, interrupt this natural drive to become a part of the world?

  • How much of our solving, saving  steering, hovering, doing-for interferes with this process? 

  • Are we nurturing this “genius” or limiting its unfolding?

 Think about it. Leave a comment and then join us for a discussion with Rick Ackerly, author of The Genius in Every Child.

More on this topic over the next few weeks!

Amazon Book Review: The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity, and Creativity in Children

From Amazon Review of the Book by 5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Parents and Educators December 6, 2012 By Carla Silver

Don’t let the word : “Don’t let the word “genius” in the title mislead you. Rick Ackerly’s book, The Genius in Children, is not about children with “extraordinary intellectual power” – the definition you might find in the dictionary. He does not suggest that all children are geniuses. Instead, Rick returns to a lesser used definition of genius: “the tutelary spirit of a person, place or institution.” He makes the case that each child has a genius, a spirit, spark, or as Rick call it, “a unique me that is becoming.” By nurturing that genius, we can help children to “maximize their potential academically, socially, physically, and personally.