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The “Pretend to Care” Technique: Case Study Success

It Works!Update:  This is a real note we just got from our son’s teacher after doing the “pretend to care” technique described in this post. Here is the important text:

“Hi Nicole,

C did great on his quiz today. I’m so proud of him. It appears he’s stepping up his game after our conference. I thought you would appreciate knowing I am seeing a noticeable difference in C. We have the chapter 2 test on Friday. I’m hoping he continues…”

We did not ask her for an update. We did not ask her how our son was doing. She passed this information along because she noticed such a big difference.

We had success last year with our older son using the “pretend to care” technique. We tried it this year with our younger son, and it worked again. It is possible you could achieve similar results with your kids, too.

Very briefly, the technique is to tell your kids that they must act and pretend as though they really care about a class or grade. Let them know it does not matter to you if they really care or not – the important part is to be such a good actor they will trick you and their teacher into they really care.

To do this, they need to participate in class, spend time and effort on homework, and do all the assignments on time – just like a kid who thought the class was extremely interesting would act. but they do not have to actually care – just pretending is enough for now.

Then, when they get good feedback (like the note we got above), only praise them for the hard work and effort. Do not mention or bring up the pretending part at all. Just praise them for the effort and celebrate the effort and strategies they have been doing.

We are bursting with pride from the effort we’ve seen at home since we talked to him just a few weeks back. But honestly, this note from the teacher is even better news. It shows he is taking action out in the real world when we are not around.

The “pretend to care” technique tricks your kids into practicing the actions it takes to be successful, and we are huge on practice around here. Practice is very important, because many times kids – and even adults – do not know exactly what to do. Practice allows for mistakes and improvement.

“Pretending to care” allows kids to experiment with new behaviors in a low risk way. They do not feel the need or pressure to change their feelings, so they can use their energy on what really matters – their actions. Then, if they act in some way which does not get good feedback, they can alter their actions without feeling like they are betraying some core part of their personality. They are just pretending, so changing to something which the teacher considers to be “better” is easy.

The way to reinforce something is to praise it and celebrate it when it happens. This technique is really just getting the kids to a place where they can honor their own feelings while still taking actions which will help them to succeed.

We are trying to reinforce a growth mindset, and practice is part of this growth mindset. We will let him know tonight, and celebrate! (of course we will be skipping any mention of the pretending, and just praising him for his effort in class!)

How has this technique worked with your kids? Let us know.

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