“You aren’t a bad boy, you just did a bad thing”
This is exactly the phrase I would cite when I was speculating about how crazy some “parental theories” can be. That was before I had kids of my own.
“What?” I used to think, “Of course you are a bad boy, drawing on the back of Granny’s sofa in permanent pen makes you a bad boy!”
Why did modern parents seem so averse to disciplining their children?
Then I became a parent and proceeded to eat my words on so many topics, parental discipline included.
The crux behind “You aren’t a bad boy, you just did a bad thing” is that you are giving your child agency over their own actions. You are explaining to them that the decisions they have consciously made have brought them to this point. That they have the power to control these decisions and to make better ones in the future.
The “bad boy” approach suggests they are innately flawed and that there is no point trying to behave because their natural “bad boy” tendencies will eventually win out.
I have found my parenting philosophy has focused on teaching my children “agency” and “resilience”, that they are responsible for their own successes and failures. They will likely not succeed the first time they try new things, but failures are simply the stepping stones to success. The aim is to get them to view success as something they can control and not simply something that does or doesn’t happen to them.
“Rosie Revere, Engineer” is an excellent vessel for this kind of teaching through the medium of a bedtime story.
It was a present from a cousin of ours who is a successful female in the traditionally male dominated engineering world. It is pretty easy to see why she liked this book.
Rosie Revere, Engineer
The lead character in this story is a little girl, Rosie Revere. She is an excellent role model for daughters and it is a good opportunity to widen a son’s exposure to male AND female lead characters. It is no co-incidence that when the little girl’s great great Aunt shows up she is also named Rosie, pictured doing some riveting, and described as “a true dynamo who’d worked building airplanes a long long time ago”.
It would seem Rosie Revere is cut from good old original feminist stock.
The overall theme of the book is universal. However if you have a daughter, niece, God-daughter or younger sister, particularly an inventive practical one, then this is a positive and inspiring book centered around two women and their achievements in engineering. The picture below is a page from the book that cites female aviation pioneers ranging from Elisabeth Thible in 1784 to Amelia Earhart in 1932.
The story begins with was Rosie as a shy girl, not willing to speak up in class. She loves inventing and making wild machines but is afraid to show them to anyone lest she be ridiculed.
We learn that she hasn’t always been like that. She used to parade all her inventions for the family with great pride until, one day, her uncle laughed a little too hard.
“He laughed till he wheezed and his eyes filled with tears,
all to the horror of Rosie Revere,
who stood there embarrassed, perplexed and dismayed.
She looked at the cheese hat and then looked away.”
And so Rosie retreats into herself, afraid to be laughed at and afraid to fail. That is until her great-great aunt arrives and inspires her to create one more invention.
Rosie builds her a flying machine, takes it out to trial, and crashes it. She hears her aunt laughing and fears the worst:
“I failed,” said dear Rosie, “It’s just made of trash,
didn’t you see it? The cheese-copter crashed.”
However, her aunt views the crash in a much different way:
“You did it! Hurray! It’s the perfect first try!
This great flop is over. It’s time for the next!”
They continue on, trying and failing, but pressing on. The flames of Rosie’s dream to become a great engineer are kept fanned by the new way she views failure and her ownership of the experimental process.
I have applied this technique to the first time my son fell off his bike. His initial reaction to rub his knees was soon forgotten by me running over and celebrating that he’s now “experienced his first fall”. More perplexed than inspired, he hopped straight back on and falls haven’t bothered him since.
I think it is important for us all to realize that life isn’t straight forward and that success doesn’t come at the first attempt.
As parents it can be hard for us to see our kids struggle, hard to not sweep in and pick them up every time they stumble. The truth is that we won’t, and can’t, always be there for them and eventually they will need to learn to pick themselves up and take agency of their own decisions and consequences.
As Rosie Revere, Engineer says:
“Life might have its failures, but this was not it.
The only true failure can come if you quit”
“Rosie Revere, Engineer” has also been selected as one of the next 5 “Story Time from Space” books. They are being sent to the International Space Station this year and will be read by the astronauts on board. They will record the reading and send it back to earth.
I don’t know about you but my kids will love knowing they are reading the same book as an astronaut!
See a video about the “Story Time from Space” program here.
Read more about Rosie Revere’s involvement here.