Posted by: philosodad | March 22, 2010

the wisdom of Tim Burton

I’ve been trying to work on the Highlander’s growth mindset. That is, I want him to be excited, not by success, but by trying, and motivated not by praise from me, but from his own desires.

And weirdly enough, this seems to be working. The playroom is not a total wreck, and I haven’t asked him to clean it in days. He’s making a transition, I hope, between regressing to get attention to progressing. It’s been sort of a battle because he’s jealous of his little sister.

One of the tools I’ve tried to use for this is cinema. The Highlander’s favorite movie is “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, which should scare the hell out of him but doesn’t. And my favorite lines in that movie are these:

Well, what the heck, I went and did my best
And, by god, I really tasted something swell
And for a moment, why, I even touched the sky
And at least I left some stories they can tell, I did

This is just an awesome moment in the movie. The hero is totally defeated. He tried something new, and he failed miserably, and he’s lying in a graveyard wishing he was dead. He has been stripped of his illusions, he realizes that he’s made some terrible mistakes. He feels bad about himself.

Then he just gets up, says, “What the hell, that was fun” and gets on with saving what he can out of the situation.

That’s a reasonable model of emotional resilience, which is a skill that I’d like the Highlander to have. So we talk about this scene whenever he feels bad about not being able to do something. And weirdly enough, after a thoughtful discussion about the “pumpkin movie”, he’s usually willing to try something again. Which is great.

Now, if only I could find an animated musical about staying in bed after bedtime.



  1. The courage to overcome failure. To recognize your loss and move on, learning your lesson and trying to do better. This is something really hard to do, but perhaps if we grow up in an environment where this type of sentiment is encouraged and even valued, it may be easier to accept failure as part of the process of learning – it may incite us to recognize earlier when a situation is heading the wrong direction and act on it sooner.

    This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time, and this post reminded me of that. I’m not a parent yet, but I do have an interest in learning and proper rearing, and how to foster a free thinking environment for the time when and if I do become one. 🙂

    Thanks for the insightful posts.

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