saying goodbye

I am sad to report that Rosie our goldfish has died. Now this isn’t that much of a surprise as she did come from the Hook a Duck stand at the fair and so her life chances were fairly slim. However we did our best by her, bought her a big tank with a filter, some plastic plants and a little rainbow to swim under if she so pleased. So we are holding on to the fact that her few short days with us were at least happy ones.

Luckily I spotted it first so the hard part was breaking the news to our little girl who had won Rosie last weekend and was very excited to have a pet all of her own. There were the expected tears and the heart breaking question of ‘Was it my fault? Did I feed her too much?’. We had to explain that we didn’t really know why Rosie had died but we think she had been happy with us and we will bury her in the garden later (and pray that the cat doesn’t dig her up).

It reminded me of how hard it was to explain death to her when my granddad passed away earlier this year. We are not religious so steered clear of talk of heaven, focusing on the fact that he had had a long and happy life with his family, that he was old and poorly and that his heart had stopped beating. It then got into a bit of a biology lesson about the heart and blood pumping round the body. As she was only three she soon forgot all of this and moved on to something else. But she does come back to it from time to time, especially if other people talk about him and asks where Great Granddad Roy is and we have to explain again. As she is a bit older now I think she understands it a little more and has asked when she will die which was a hard question to answer. I try to be as truthful as possible with her but didn’t want to say ‘I don’t know’, so focused on the fact that most people don’t die until they are very old and she had lots of years to go. I imagine there will be lots of difficult questions I will need to answer in the future.

She hasn’t yet asked if we are going to get another goldfish and if she does I am not sure what my response will be – I don’t want her to think that when something dies it can easily and quickly be replaced. And besides I didn’t want a goldfish in the first place!

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In praise of praise

I have just read a couple of interesting blog posts here  and here which talk about about the importance of praise and recognition in the workplace. Basically the upshot is that being praised or recognised at work improves employee engagement and motivation. For many though this seems to be a once a year event at the annual performance appraisal and in many cases the ‘well done’ is quickly followed by objectives for the next year. The articles suggest that praise should be timely, specific, focused on the end goal and given often. In many ways this is very similar to the process that we have followed with our little girl (well tried to at least) when trying to teach her things such as table manners, using the toilet, cleaning her teeth. She even has her own sticker chart and rewards if she achieves a certain target each week. I can’t say for certain it is working – behaviour this week suggests otherwise – but we shall persevere.

The parenting books I have read (read might be a misleading term, skimmed maybe) suggest that it is important to focus on the positive behaviour rather than the ‘failures’ and when the behaviour isn’t as expected to deal with it quickly and then forget it.  A recent post by Dave Goddin picked this up talking about how school children are expected to make mistakes – it is part of the learning process. His post went on to consider how the workplace is different as failure tends to be viewed as a deficiency. Others have posted about how we treat failure at work and its consequences (What Goes Around and Thinking about Learning). I have no bright ideas about how to solve this problem but may be there is something to be learnt from the process of parenting.

As a parent you don’t tend to get much praise, the little ones you take care of are not yet advanced enough to recognise all the wonderful things you do for them everyday and I haven’t yet had an annual appraisal! I think you take your ‘recognition’ from a different source, more intrinsic, such as the joy at watching them learn new things, gain more independence etc. And just occasionally you may even be able to inwardly rejoice when someone compliments your child’s behaviour.

So while I may be missing out on my own personal sticker chart and rewards but at least I get to set my own objectives!