Sense of control, self-efficacy and motivations: three ways to shape the kids

Again a post post school assignment. School makes me think, I guess it’s a good thing.

One of the mandatory papers for my Social Psychology class had us ponder on ways to motivate a young girl to pursue sport, as we know how many of them stop practicing sports and start questioning their physical capacities at the dawn of their teenage years.

Environmental factors and behavioural modeling during childhood and teenage-hood are so important in designing the adults we are, I think most of us don’t doubt this anymore. Not the only thing that has an impact of course: genetics is too, but let’s face it, once you are born, or your child, you can’t do much about that anymore. The only thing you can work on is, well, what you can work on. The idea was to advise a parent whose young daughter loves sports, but the parent is afraid she will “follow the trend” and give up on sport or physical activity. I liked this idea, I find that we focus so much on media and advertisement, that we often forget what we can do on a day to day basis.

Being the best that we can be, and therefore the best model, is the first thing on the list of what we should do, of course. I get that this is still relative, but if we think about it and think about our actions, I think most of us we’ll end up with similar conclusions and paths. Some kind of universal human value scheme. Practically, how you behave with the children around you will shape the way they perceive themselves, the world, and who they will become. Here, I just wanted to share a couple of ideas that came up while I was writing the paper, how we can improve in my communication with children as a whole, and help them be better prepared adults. Comments and criticism are always welcome.

Have you ever been in that position where a child has done something, and you praise them, but then you think is it good to praise the child for no reason, and then you praise the effort, and then you wonder if the child will think you only do this because he or she did well, or that your love is conditional, so then you say that whatever he or she will do, you’ll be happy, and then you feel like a moron because you know you’ve left the child with so many subliminal message he or she has no idea what was good or not, and whatever? It happens to me all the time, with my nieces. I think now they just think I am cognitively challenged.

That paper we had to write made me feel the same way when thinking about what we can, and it’s a feeling I get with Psychology as a whole: everything and its contrary might be true, or not, and in the end it’s the behaviour that confirms, or not, what was true, or not, to begin with. Not to sell the conclusion right away, but in the end, it sort of depends. Nevertheless, I could summarise my ideas into three great ideas (not as in magnificent, but as in umbrella ideas), and I think they apply for the subject at hand (involvement into sports) but also to build some sort of safety net for all we seem afraid will happen later on.

The first thing seemed to be a healthy sense of control: helplessness has been demonstrated to induce anxiety and depression, issues with control over one’s life (not to be mistaken with control issues in the vernacular sense) can influence the onset of anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorders and eating disorders. Learned helplessness is when we learn or believe that no matter what we do, we can’t have any control over our lives. The expression was coined by Martin Seligman, a famous American psychologist. A lot of experiments have been done with children to help us understand how they react to cues and how they can develop a better, and healthy, sense of control. What we mean by healthy i this instance can be summarised by this AA moto:

It was hard finding one without the God… So back to the experiments! I’ll refer here to one conducted by Carol Dweck, on praising children for their effort or performance, and which ones developed more determination and perseverance:

So as we can see, children praised for their effort seemed to do better in the long run. But wait… It’s a trap! Just kidding, almost. Carol Dweck was not super happy with what followed these experiments, and how people suddenly thought that praising every effort was a good idea! She wrote several articles and books on the importance of growth in helping children, and focusing on the process and the strategy and not just on “trying” or the “end result”. Some sort of middle ground. So the idea is to instill the belief, this certainty to the child, that they can improve, that they have a control over that in some way, and that they have the ability, with the help of others, to find strategies that will help them improve. The whole idea behind the growth mindset of Ms. Dweck.

The second idea is self-efficacy, or a belief in your own competence. Not only should you learn that you can grow and improve, but you also must believe that you can and that you are able. As human beings can be a little dumb dumb, we can easily trick our mind in that area: studies have shown that our sense of competence in one area can have positive impact on how we perceive ourselves in other areas as well and that intrinsic motivations towards knowledge, accomplishments etc. are highly correlated. The strategy then would be to help children make their own choices and instill a sense of responsibility regarding their participation in activities, including school and house chores. Easier said then done I would guess, but it starts with the little things. At work, we value reciprocity when intervening with our clients: we encourage families, including children, to reciprocate and participate in our organisation’s activities and duties. Last summer, we asked one family to help out with the plants inside and on the balcony (water them mostly) and the 4 year old kid decided that he would be in charge of that. We showed him where the watering can was and he was good to go. We had to remind him every week he came to the office, but you know, 4 years old… I guess this is how it starts.

However, planning a week of chores in exchange for pocket money is not how it starts…

And on my final topic for this… rambling… intrinsic motivations. How many times have I heard that I needed to want to do something, and yet the same people who said those things were forcing me to do something. Life is full of contradictions. But in the case of children, it seems important to carefully not create a whole set up of external motivations that will just silence or cancel out internal ones. Read this little story:

There was an old man who looked forward to his daily afternoon nap. But a problem arose. The neighbourhood children decided that the street in front of his house was the perfect place for their afternoon football game. They yelled, shrieked, & played noisily. The old man couldn’t get a wink of sleep.
So he decided to convince the children to stop playing football in front of his house. He considered waving a broom to scare the children, but thought better of it. He needed a superlative plan.The following day, he brought a chair with his newspaper to the curb, to watch the children play. He watched attentively & cheered the good plays. The children noticed but ignored him. At the end of the game, the old man handed each child $5. The children were as puzzled as they were happy.
“What’s this for?” they asked.
“I’m retired & bored” replied the old man. “Your football game is something I enjoy. This $5 reward is a way for me to say thank you, & to ensure that you play here every day. Just play great football!”
The children ecstatically yelled “Sure!” & showed up the next afternoon ready to play a great game. They did, but the old man missed many of the good plays as he was buried in his newspaper. At one point the children scored a spectacular goal which the old man missed because he had seemingly dozed off. At the end of the game the children gathered around & asked the old man, “How was that?”
The old man responded “Well, that was a good game. Not as great as yesterday though. Here’s $2 each.”
The children protested. “We played a great game! Better than yesterday!”
The old man responded nonchalantly, “I just didn’t see it that way.”
The children took the money, grumbling, & showed up the next day, determined to play a fantastic game.Initially they played well, but teamwork started to break down, as several of the children were determined to impress the old man by making plays on their own. As the game progressed, play got worse & worse. The children argued amongst themselves & increasingly focused on individualistic play. Whenever a good play was made, the old man always seemed to be buried in his newspaper. But he always managed to catch & comment on the poor play. At the end of the game, the children shuffled over to where the old man was sitting with their heads hung low.
“That was terrible football. If you’re going to play like that in future, play somewhere else!” the old man howled at them. He shoved his hand in his pocket & scattered small change on the street in front of the children & stormed away.
Upset & forlorn, the children vowed never to play football anywhere near that old man again.
And they never did.

Never mind how creepy this story sounds, it illustrates how the human mind works beautifully. What the story doesn’t explicit enough, is the fact that the reward was expected, which means that in the end the expected reward became the reason for the behaviour, even though the kids liked paying their game to begin with. What if the reward is unexpected? Well, it doesn’t affect people’s motivation in this case, because the reason for the behaviour can’t be an unexpected reward.

Then again, people are people, and our kids will be our kids. Who are we to say that the reason why they want or don’t want to so this or that is… well this or that? How many times have I seen people tell me that I didn’t like doing something because I was too shy, or to this, and that I should just apply myself. And now at 35, I know that I’m not shy, I just don’t like people. We all do our best, and we shouldn’t fret too much about every word we say: everything we do will have an impact, there’s no way to avoid it.


Vegan Daily Protein Combination #2 – The Lazy Day Edition

To be honest with you, the lazy day edition is pretty much any normal day now. I found an easy way to get everything I need in super easy and quick format, from breakfast to supper. I decide to share ideas of what I eat in a day to help other people who might want to reduce their meat intake and don’t really know how to get it done intelligently. This is not a full proof combination, and it’s targeted for a women my age (35) my height (170 cm) and my weight (81 kg), but it can serve as a reference point for other people. You can see the first post in this category here.

I start my day with a smoothie, in which I add 2 tbs of ground flax seeds, 2 tbs of chopped walnuts (I buy them chopped, put them in the freezer) and 5 almonds. Yes, I count them. I add soy milk with a bunch of frozen fruits and some superfoods powder that I got in a box somewhere. I usually add some oatmeal, if I want to stay focused until lunch. I didn’t add it though to the countdown, it’s not a constant in my life, so let’s just consider it a bonus!

Lunch will be 1/2 cup of hummus and vegetables that I dip directly in the container and some kind of piece of bread or crackers I can steal find in the fridge at work. An ex-employee of mine used to eat that for lunch all the time. Her conviction that food boredom was not an issue in her life just gave me the little push I need to not care just as much.

And for supper, I add 1/2 bag of frozen broccoli to the boiling pasta while I soak 1/2 cup TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) on the side in powdered no sodium vegetable broth. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of TVP, but it has the advantage of being fantastically easy to use and a very complete vegan protein. I drain the pasta and broccoli, put it back in the pot, add the TVP, pepper, sriracha, olive oil, nothing and eat it right out of the pot.

Is this combination a gastronomic dream? No, it isn’t. My priority right now is efficiency, and what I try to accomplish in my day is not the pleasure of my taste buds, but a shitload of work and study. This routine allows me to work 8-10 hours a day, study 5 and still have time to take a shower once in a while and slap colours on my face every morning… I can even find time to do the dishes, aka a ninja blender container and a cooking pot. I eat this way 4 days a week during times of high stress and work overload. And when everyone at work is falling ill with stomach flues and colds and many types of influenza, I remain unperturbed.

That’s when you realise that being a vegan is the best option for the lazy or ultra busy cook who doesn’t want to eat out all the time. That being said, I’ll try to be a little less lazy and buy my own bread from now on…

I want to add that the proteins for which there are no targets are non-essential amino acids, which means that your body, in a healthy environment, can synthesise them from other nutrients. I know that vitamins and minerals are also important, and I do take them into account when thinking about my food, but I already take a multivitamin, for B12 and for iron mostly, but it has everything else.  If I change the frozen vegetable for peas, or cauliflower, a mix of these, I’m still all good for the day. In reality, I buy one of those three, whichever is on sale at the grocery store 🙂

So here’s the data:

From food to everything else: re-learning to shop vegan and cruelty-free

I definitely don’t want this place to become a makeup blog, far from it, but it is one area where I still feel unsure of what I’m doing and what I’m buying. Same thing with house products, or everything except food 🙂

Food is simple: the more “whole food” you buy, the more you know you’re on the right path. And for processed food, for the once in a while super easy Friday night supper, products advertise their vegan-ness with pride. For skincare and makeup, each product will not necessarily have it’s own vegan label and a company may have different products with various statuses. Some people only buy from brands that are 100% vegan and cruelty free, and are not affiliated to any other company which has other ethical standards; I’m not one of them. The same way I can buy my fruits and vegetables and beans from a grocery store that also keeps meat and cheese, the same way I have no problem buying beauty or home products from brands that have a non cruelty free parent company or that sells both vegan and non vegan products.  I used the grocery store analogy, but same for restaurants or people for that matter!

Still, it has become a hassle to constantly check my phone for lists of vegan products while shopping. I look forward to just finding my new favourites that I’ll know for sure are ok for me, and that will cut the shopping dilemma greatly.

I’m finally going through this, which is fun since I hadn’t bought anything in almost two years to get rid of things I had, fun to finally be using products that are “fresh” (you know, when you don’t always take a sniff of the bottle each day you open it to check if it’s still good…?) and fun to finally be able to use products that I hope are coherent with my values.

I’m lucky to have 2 minutes from my house a little eco shop for beauty care and home products: Maison Écolonet carries a variety of bulk household products, from detergent to toothpaste, but also packaged products. That’s where I buy some of my beauty products now, and toothpaste, and I’ll switch to bulk detergent and soap when I’m done with what I have. A little rant though, these products are so darn expensive: I really do only use a pea size amount of toothpaste now because at 7$ a tube, I kind of feel cheated…

So these are the new additions: I’m using right now the Desert Essence toothpaste in Tea Tree Oil, I really like it but it wasn’t on sale this time and this one from Nature’s Gate was a bit cheaper. I’ll be able to compare and make up my mind between the two. If anyone reading this knows of any good one which are cheaper and easily available in Montreal or Canada (online), let me know!

For face cream, this is my first try at a The Green Beaver Company with the Sensitive Aloe Day Cream. This product stinks, but I really like it: it is light, not greasy. To help with the smell, and since I actually don’t have sensitive skin, I’ve been putting a generous amount in a pot and add one or two drop of essential oil to make it nice and dreamy. I’ve been using neroli for the past week. Nice. At 20$ a tube, I think it’s a cheap and great option, and a Canadian one!

I finally finished all the mascara samples I had and went to purchase a new one and chose this Zorah lengthening mascara. I think it’s good, I don’t think my standards are really high with mascara, but it’s crazy expensive (25$!!!) and so I’m looking for another one. This Pixi mascara is the same price, but I had Optimum Points at Pharmaprix to use up, so I splurge on that one and a couple of other products from that brand (not yet tried out).

I think I’ll end up buying e.l.f. mascaras online, at 3-4 $ I think, because I just think these are crazy prices for black goo on my lashes.

This is quest, and I’m far from done. I don’t know how people who decided to throw everything away in one day and start anew can do it: most advice I see online encourage people to go at it step by step, and that’s obviously the path I chose. Even this way, it can feel overwhelming; the important thing though is to be a bit forgiving with yourself and accept that you might make mistake. It is a process, and my every day goal is to do the best that I can… on that day.

Please let me know if you have found a new routine and providers for your beauty and house hold products that are easily available and don’t cost an arm and leg.


Project 10 Pan: cruelty-free and vegan products slow transitioning…

This spring, I will have been fully vegan for two years. Almost: one time I got a cow’s milk latte at the coffee shop and I didn’t want to throw it away… and some other times like that I think where people served me “plant based” food for which I had doubts. You sort of taste it, after a while, the animal taste I mean. That latte, jeez, it tasted like an udder smells, not that I have ever smelled an udder, but I think you get my gist.

I’m pretty good now with my food, and most of my body products. I had a lot of backup of shampoos and soaps, so I’m slowly going through them; toothpaste is good, conditioner right now is good, main face cream is good (eye, serums and other stuff, no). I have faith that one day the transition will be full in that department.

Clothing department, I still wear leather articles that I had acquired before the switch; same thing with silk, I have a couple of scarf with some silk in it. No wool, never liked wool. It’s itchy. I’m fine with that (not the wool, the whole wearing things like that in general at this stage in my journey).

Now comes makeup. I have a lot of makeup. Not Youtube beauty guru massive collection type of a lot, just a lot for most normal women I would think. And I’m not wearing so much of it. I’ve decluttered, but since I haven’t found any place in Montreal where they take use products to give them away – which I understand completely – I mostly threw these products away. I don’t want to continue to do that: I kept the products that I enjoyed for their colour, texture, ease of use etc, their problem is the company’s stance on animal testing and usage of animal byproduct. So I decided to do what was so popular a couple of years ago and previously mentioned Youtube beauty world, to help me out evacuating these products.

The thing is, I kinda feel guilty about all of it: the makeup, not using it, keeping it, not having a fully cruelty free / vegan makeup stash. I’m giving myself time, but after two years, I think a bit of strategy is in need. A bit more planning. A bit more panning 🙂

So here are the ten products I chose:

Inglot – Matte eye shadow #355 (doesn’t seem to be vegan according to this list) – I just needed a basic skin coloured matte for eyeshadow looks

Nars duo in Portobello – I just needed basic mattes for crease

Clinique duo in beach plum #18

Color Tattoo in Bad to the Bronze #25 – Can’t believe this thing is still creamy…ish

Clinique Blush Pop in Nude Pop 05 – At least I’ve used this one a lot, can’t see the flower on top

Cover Girl Eye concealer #205 – soo old… I think I screw the caps of my products super tight because they are all still in perfect condition

Lancôme L’Absolu Nu Lipstick in 101 (I’ve had this one for sooo many years, I think I was doing my Master at the time – that’s 10 years ago people)

Lancôme Lip Lover in 321

Clarins Volupté Sheer Candy in 07

Clarins Instant Light Lip Comfort Oil in 02

It smells very high end. And I feel like I’ll never see the end of this project, although I am determined to transition all my product consumption to more ethical ones. So it’s either that or I continue to feel bad about it and just rant alone, in front of my makeup drawer.

Of course these do not make a makeup look entirely. My mascaras are vegan and cf (yeassss!), foundation/bbcream, it’s coming quickly. Eye pencil I have all sort, but since my eye shadow looks are pretty limited in my P10P, I’ll play with my pencil a little more freely. I’ll post periodically where I’m at, and when I finish around 4-5 products, I’ll probably do a new project, just adding new products to the mix.

If you stumble upon my blog and I’ve gone through the same thing, trying to slowly get rid of all your non vegan/cf products, let me know what are the lessons you’ve ended up with, so I can’t benefit from your experience and wisdom!

I’ll add a few resources for other people like me, the in-betweeners. These websites have become major resources for me in the past years; there many others but I always come back to these ones which are easy to use, clear, helpful…everything!

Logical Harmony

Cruelty-Free + Vegan Makeup Brands (the whole website but especially this list)

Ethical Elephant

I’ll probably post a cf/vegan skincare/makeup haul next, for some positive reinforcement.

Being part of the solution #socialanxietydisorder

I’ve been studying Psychology for over a year now, a coming-back to school sort of thing at 30…ish years, probably a career change if all goes well! Everything I study is extremely interesting, and, surprisingly, extremely useful even in my management job.

Especially in my management job…

Although psychopathology will probably not be the branch I choose for my graduate studies, I’ve been interested in learning more about the topic, and apply these new insights into my work: we deal with clients affected by psychological disorders and understanding a bit more about the etiology and course of these disorders has been helpful.

I’ve been working on an infographic for my class, to support the Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 31. I’ve decided to talk about Social anxiety Disorder, because it seems to be a common disorder among the “crowd” I watch and follow in social medias. Many famous Youtubers have come out to talk about their struggle with the disease, and as someone who has always been a bit skeptic, I thought it would be a great idea to address this issue and open my mind just a little bit… it never hurts!

So here it is for your commenting and criticizing. I hope you learn something. I’ll be sharing it on January 31 so if anyone’s got any comment before that, let me know!

This infographic was made with Canva.