Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child

Overview

Now available in paperback, Positive Pushing gives parents clear and balanced instruction on how to encourage children just enough to produce a happy, successful, satisfied achiever. Taylor, an experienced achievement consultant, believes that, pushed properly, children will grow into adults ready to tackle life's many challenges.

Using his three-pillared approach, Taylor focuses on self-esteem, ownership, and emotional mastery, and maintains that pushing, rather than being a ...

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Overview

Now available in paperback, Positive Pushing gives parents clear and balanced instruction on how to encourage children just enough to produce a happy, successful, satisfied achiever. Taylor, an experienced achievement consultant, believes that, pushed properly, children will grow into adults ready to tackle life's many challenges.

Using his three-pillared approach, Taylor focuses on self-esteem, ownership, and emotional mastery, and maintains that pushing, rather than being a means of control, is both a source of motivation and a catalyst for growth that can instill important values in children's lives. He teaches parents how to temper their own expectations to suit their children's emotional, intellectual, and physical development, and identifies common red flags that indicate when a child is being pushed too hard—or not enough.

Whether a child's potential for achievement lies in academics, the arts, sports, or other areas, Dr. Taylor's insight and guidance will push parents, teachers, and coaches to nurture children into successful and happy adults.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
We parents experience such a thrill when our kids show aptitude. Wow, he scored a goal in pee-wee soccer? Onto the World Cup! Oh, look at the color choices in this finger painting. Watch out, Museum of Modern Art! Sure, we'd all like our kids to become rich and famous and take care of us in our old age. On the other hand, we want our children to become functional adults who don't need therapy three times a week. How can we reconcile the two and raise children who are happy and successful?

Jim Taylor acknowledges that our society's emphasis on wealth and social status "is often at odds with experiencing satisfaction, contentment and happiness." His goal is teaching parents to raise successful achievers -- people with high self-esteem who are accountable for their actions and maintain mastery of their emotions. In order to get our kids off the couch and away from their video games in the first place, we must set high expectations for them, push them beyond what they think they're capable of. But we must do it positively and with love. Taylor warns us, in the form of "red flags," about the many ways that we end up sending detrimental messages to children about their self-worth. Without the foundation of a secure parental relationship, "high-performers" are only going through the motions of their chosen "achieving activity" and will eventually rebel.

Positive Pushing will certainly benefit parents whose children are already demonstrating talent in athletics, the arts, or academics. But even those who want nothing more than for their child to grow up and find a job that suits them will find wisdom in the cautionary tales of parents who take their children's successes and failures too personally. Taylor delves deeply into the psyche of high achievers to provide insight and strategy to parents who want to motivate their children to excellence -- and happiness. (Jessica Leigh Lebos)

Booklist
A positive, useful guide for helping children succeed.
Publishers Weekly
Taylor, a psychologist who has worked with young achievers in sports, education and the performing arts for 17 years, helps parents determine how to give their child encouragement and the emotional resources not only to succeed but to deal with success in a healthy way. Arguing that pushing is necessary for children to take risks and discover their strengths, he advises parents how to push while focusing on self-esteem, ownership and emotional mastery what he calls the three pillars of successful achievers. Taylor stresses the importance of parental involvement, but warns that many parents go overboard, getting too involved in their child's achievements and denying the child "ownership" of their own experiences. Instead, Taylor suggests parents help their child focus on the process rather than a winning outcome, and keep a balance in their life. To wit, he provides useful guidelines for how much time should be spent on achievement activities, and recommends not more than two such activities per child to ensure that they don't infringe on playtime and family time. In each chapter, he lists "red flags" warning signs in children's behavior that indicate parents are pushing too much or too little. Taylor's thoughtful, clear-eyed approach to a controversial subject will be appreciated by parents raising kids in a competitive world. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786888504
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 4/23/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 538,060
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 4.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Positive Pushing
HOW TO RAISE A SUCCESSFUL AND HAPPY CHILD


By Jim Taylor, Ph.D.

HYPERION

Copyright © 2002 Jim Taylor, Ph.D..
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0786868775



Chapter One


Aren't I Good Enough for You?

Security vs. Competence


When I ask parents to define self-esteem in children, most say something like, "It's how kids feel about themselves. Kids with high self-esteem feel good about themselves and they feel loved and appreciated by their parents. Kids with low self-esteem don't feel love from their parents and don't really like themselves." This, however, is only half the definition of self-esteem.

    Self-esteem is made up of two essential components. The first part of self-esteem, which has been emphasized over the past thirty years, is children's need to feel that they are loved, valued, and appreciated by their parents. The sense of security that comes from these feelings acts as the foundation for self-esteem. Children with this sense of security know that, regardless of what they do or what happens, they will still be loved and valued. This sense of security assures children that their parents will love them even if they fail in their achievement efforts.

    Children also know that there are people to whom they can turn to protect them when they are at risk or feeling vulnerable. This "anchor" encourages children to confidently move away from that safe haven and begin to explore their world, take risks, and test their limits. Knowing that they are loved regardless of the outcome of their achievement efforts and that their parents will protect them from harm acts as the foundation for children's comfort and motivation to pursue achievement. "Kids are caught between a need for independence and a need for security. They need to know parents are around—not hovering over their every move, but there in the background," says psychologist Nancy Drake. This sense of security alone is not, however, sufficient to build self-esteem in children.

    Where the self-esteem movement over the last few decades has missed out is in neglecting the second essential component of self-esteem—the sense of competence and mastery over one's life. Ann Masten and J. Douglas Coatsworth, researchers at the University of Minnesota and University of Miami, respectively, found that competence can be defined in two ways: broadly in terms of children's successfully achieving developmental milestones (for example, toilet training, language acquisition, and social skills), and more narrowly in terms of specific areas of achievement, such as academics and athletics. This sense of competence is based on several things. In its most basic form, competence derives from children's belief that their actions matter, in other words, when they act, certain outcomes result (when children do good things, good things happen; when they do bad things, bad things happen; when they do nothing, nothing happens). A sense of competence develops when children believe that they have the capabilities necessary to be successful. The development of this sense of competence is so fundamental because, as Drs. Masten and Coatsworth further show, children's perceptions of their ability and control, and their confidence in their capabilities, directly affect their future behavior.

    By being overly protective, parents can take away essential opportunities for a child to gain competence in areas such as emotional maturity—awareness, understanding, and control of emotions. The lack of emotional competence severely limits a child's ability to achieve because she will not be emotionally capable of managing the inevitable obstacles and setbacks of achievement. Drs. Masten and Coatsworth discovered that low emotional confidence was related to numerous childhood, adolescent, and adult difficulties, including anxiety, aggression, poor social skills, and low achievement.

    This is where the self-esteem movement failed. To protect their children's self-esteem, parents took away the very things that build self-esteem. Children were not allowed to learn that their actions matter. Parents also took away children's consequences of and responsibility for their actions. By taking away success and failure (for example, winning and losing, being evaluated and graded), parents took away children's ability to learn that their efforts lead to outcomes and consequences. For example, if parents reward their children for finishing half of their homework because that is better than none at all, they "lower the bar" for their children and demonstrate that a minimal amount of achievement is good enough.

    In addition to what parents who don't understand both parts of self-esteem take away from their children, they also don't give them what they most need. Building self-esteem involves giving children the sense of security that comes from knowing that they are loved whether they succeed or fail. It also means providing children with opportunities to become competent people possessing the skills to master the challenges of achievement. Having this foundation of genuine, deeply rooted self-esteem gives children the confidence to continue to challenge themselves, to find satisfaction and validation in their efforts, and to push the limits of their capabilities. This combination of the grounding in feeling loved and secure, with the desire to explore their abilities that comes from a strong sense of competence, acts as the true source of self-esteem. Says Jean Illsley Clarke, the author of Self-Esteem: A Family Affair, "Positive self-esteem is important because when people experience it, they feel good and look good, they are effective and productive, and they respond to other people and themselves in healthy, positive, growing ways. People who have positive self-esteem know that they are lovable and capable, and they care about themselves and other people."



In each chapter of Positive Pushing, I describe "red flags" that can help you to recognize early signs of difficulties that your child may be experiencing and which may lead to more problems in the future. If any of these red flags are your red flags, then you will be able to look deeper and understand the underlying problems, their causes, and how you can help your child to overcome these difficulties.

    As the most fundamental contributor to the development of children, every warning sign discussed in Positive Pushing that arises in children can be traced back to problems with self-esteem. For example, perfectionists depend on their next success to sustain their self-esteem. Children who experience performance anxiety lack a sense of competence and expect to fail. Children who express inappropriate emotions or have no emotional control feel incapable of managing the achievement situation with which they are faced. Children who suffer from more severe psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse and eating disorders, are showing a consequence of low self-esteem.


Developing Your Child's Sense of Security


"For many people, what is most deeply desired is to have been seen and accepted in the family for who they are, a desire to have been treated with kindness, compassion, understanding, and respect; to have been accorded freedom, safety, and privacy, and a sense of belonging," write Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, the authors of Everyday Blessings. This requires love and a sense of security.

    Children who learn that their parents' love for them is dependent on whether they succeed or fail will be threatened by the challenge of achievement. This threat arises out of their perception that every experience of achievement puts their parents' love for them on the line. The possibility of success may motivate children to achieve in order to gain their parents' love. The possibility of failure, however, puts them in a state of constant fear at the prospect of losing their parents' love. This insecurity will inhibit children's motivation to explore, take risks, and achieve their best.

    For your child to develop this sense of security, you need to express your love for your child regardless of whether he succeeds or fails. "The ... message that children need to hear is 'You are important and lovable just because you exist'. This self-esteem building block is a gift that the child does not have to earn," observes Jean Illsley Clarke. This sounds self-evident and natural for parents to do. Yet, most achieving problems are due to some form of "conditional love." For example, there is a big difference to a child between his parents' saying that he could have tried harder in a way that he understands is for his benefit ("Honey, you won't reach your goals unless you give your best effort") and his parents' expressing their disappointment in him in response to their own needs ("You really let us down when you didn't win today"). Parents who communicate the message of lack of effort in a calm, positive, and supportive way encourage and challenge their child to work harder. Parents who take their child's lack of effort personally and convey disappointment with anger and hurt cause their child to become fearful of achieving because she will fear losing her parents' love.

    The second important element of the sense of security is your child's need to feel safe and protected. This aspect of security gives children the confidence to explore their world, take risks, and pursue achievement. To your child, the world is a large and fascinating playground in which to explore. It can also be a chaotic, uncontrollable, and scary place where hidden dangers lurk. Children realize that they have limitations and that they don't know a lot about the world. Giving your child freedom without this sense of security may cause him to feel vulnerable and afraid. You can communicate to your child that you are someone who is stronger than he is and on whom he can rely to protect him when needed. This knowledge reinforces your child's sense of security—he always has a safe haven to which he can return—and gives him the confidence to seek out challenges and to develop his sense of competence.

    These feelings of security will also be strengthened when you set boundaries within which your child must stay. A world without boundaries is one that can be overwhelming and threatening to your child. Because she has little experience from which to determine what is safe and what is not, your child is unable to judge how far is far enough. Instead, your child's natural curiosity may propel her into situations beyond her capabilities. Boundaries act as a safety zone to protect your child from experiences for which she is not yet ready. If you do not establish boundaries for your child at an early age, she will likely encounter inappropriate challenges for which she is unprepared. These experiences will be scary, and your child may come to view her world as fearsome and beyond control. This perception of danger will discourage future exploration and inhibit her willingness to take risks and to achieve. Notes psychiatrist David Fassler, "Kids need, want, and benefit from clear, predictable boundaries." Setting boundaries does not mean locking your child in her room and never letting her experience risks or failure. Rather, boundaries mean understanding the risks and dangers your child may encounter, being sensitive to age-appropriate exposure to those risks, and ensuring that your child has the practical, physical, psychological, and emotional skills to successfully respond to a reasonable level of challenge. For example, while visiting the zoo, a father gives his young son money to buy some ice cream at a vendor a short distance away. The boy thought he was on his own, but his father shadowed his son's journey to ensure his safety. The boy felt that he had successfully ventured out on his own and the experience gave him confidence in his ability to explore further.

    As your child becomes comfortable with her current boundaries and gains greater confidence and skills that enable her to explore further, you need to constantly reexamine the boundaries to allow greater latitude, thus providing additional opportunities for your child to obtain more experience and skills. When your child reaches a certain level of maturity, the power to establish boundaries should be given to her. For example, in the early years of your child's life, you establish clear physical boundaries of where she can play. At first, the boundaries may encompass the living room, where you can keep an eye on her. Then, her boundaries might expand to the entire first floor of your home, where you can hear her playing. Next, the boundaries could include your fenced-in backyard, where you check up on her periodically. As your child grows, these boundaries could continue to increase to include the block you live on and the neighborhood park. At some later point in your child's life, you could simply ask her to tell you where she is going and trust that she is ready to take on the responsibilities of maintaining her own boundaries.

    This gradual extension of boundaries offers several meaningful benefits. The ever-expanding boundaries ensure that your child is allowed to explore beyond what is comfortable and easy, knowing that there are still limits to how far she can go. Boundaries offer your child the opportunity to gain experience and more skills in increasingly challenging situations that will enhance her sense of competence. Boundaries provide children with a safe harbor to which she knows she can return when she reaches the comfortable limits of her explorations. Finally, extending the boundaries and then ceding them to your child allows her to progressively internalize the sense of security that you provided when she was young. It also enables your child to find that feeling of being loved and safe within herself which will contribute to your child's ability to strengthen her sense of competence and foster her independence.


Developing Your Child's Sense of Competence


Henry Ford once said, "If you do or don't think you can do something, you're right." This simple statement goes to the heart of understanding your child's ability to achieve his goals. Most children have the intellectual, technical, or physical capabilities to achieve some level of success in the activities they choose to pursue. Yet, when they do not succeed, it is often because the one thing they lack is a sense of competence in themselves and their abilities.

    A child's belief that he can succeed is critical because it allows him to do more than just use his abilities to perform at his current level, but rather it allows him to challenge himself to find the limits of his capabilities. This sense of competence begins with the conviction that a child's efforts will likely be rewarded with success. This belief in his competence and the likelihood of success counters worry and anxiety about failure and the pressure that a child may feel when the thought of failure is threatening. This confidence enables a child to push himself beyond his comfort zone to a level that could not be reached otherwise. It allows a child to take risks in his efforts, which enables him to further raise his level of achievement. Finally, this attitude girds him against the inevitable setbacks, plateaus, and valleys he will face as he strives higher.

    There are two aspects of the sense of competence that are necessary to enable children to become successful achievers: global belief and specific belief. Global belief is a child's basic confidence that her actions matter and that she has the capacity to successfully overcome a range of challenges. Specific belief involves how competent a child feels to succeed in a particular achievement activity. What both of these beliefs have in common is that children learn that they can influence their world and that their actions can produce desired outcomes. For example, a child learns that if he works hard in school then he will earn good grades. Conversely, if he doesn't work hard, he will earn poor grades. Without this fundamental belief in their competence, children will doubt their ability to succeed and, not surprisingly, demonstrate little effort toward achieving their goals.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Positive Pushing by Jim Taylor, Ph.D.. Copyright © 2002 by Jim Taylor, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

Special Thanks to xi
Introduction: Positive Pushing xiii
Part I Self-Esteem 1
Chapter 1 Aren't I Good Enough for You? 5
Red Flags 8
Developing Your Child's Sense of Security 8
Developing Your Child's Sense of Competence 12
Global Belief 13
Specific Belief 17
Specific Belief Without Global Belief 20
Self-Reflection 22
Accuracy of Self-Perceptions 24
Rules for Achievement and Happiness 27
Chapter 2 Can't You Just Love Me for Me? 29
Red Flags 32
Red Flag #1 Conditional Love 32
Red Flag #2 Dangling-Carrot Love 34
Red Flag #3 Creating a Human Doing 36
Red Flag #4 Unhealthy Parental Expectations 37
Red Flag #5 Unhealthy Praise and Punishment 42
Red Flag #6 Being a Bottom-Line Parent 43
Red Flag #7 Creating a Unidimensional Child 44
Red Flag #8 Perfectionism 46
Giving Healthy Love 50
Value Love 50
Create a Human Being 50
Healthy Parental Expectations 52
Healthy Praise and Punishment 59
Strive for Excellence 61
Parental Dos and Don'ts 63
Chapter 3 Who Is the Real Me? 67
Red Flags 72
Red Flag #1 Self-Hate 72
Red Flag #2 Self-Punishment 73
Red Flag #3 Self-Destruction 74
Developing Your Child's True Self 75
Know the True Self 75
Wage War Against the False Self 77
False Self or True Self: Your Choice 79
Part II Ownership 81
Chapter 4 Whose Life Is This, Anyway? 87
Your Needs vs. Your Child's Needs 90
Red Flags 91
Red Flag #1 Fixing Your Imperfect Self 91
Red Flag #2 Merging with Your Child 92
Red Flag #3 Placing Your Happiness on Your Child's Shoulders 95
Red Flag #4 Losing Perspective 97
Red Flag #5 Overmatching Your Child 99
Red Flag #6 Battle of Wills 102
Putting Your Child's Needs First 103
Recognize Your Own Needs 104
Gain and Maintain Perspective 105
Understand Your Child's Needs 107
Avoid the Battle of Wills 108
Challenge Your Child 109
The Sibling Factor 110
Get a Life 111
Control vs. Nurture Your Child 112
Chapter 5 Who's in Charge Here? 113
Forced Participation 114
Guided Participation 116
Red Flags 117
Red Flag #1 Taking Away the Fun 117
Red Flag #2 Loss of Motivation 117
Find the Fun Again 118
Regaining Motivation 120
Process of Guided Participation 123
Exposure to Achievement Activities 123
Time Management 124
Initial Impetus 128
Provide Resources 130
Commitment 131
Goal Setting 135
Ongoing Encouragement 139
Freedom 140
Your Child's Choice 140
Suggestions for Raising Successful Achievers 142
Chapter 6 Why Won't You Let Me Grow Up? 143
Contingent Children 144
Independent Children 147
Parent and Child Responsibilities 149
Your Responsibilities 149
Your Child's Responsibilities 150
Red Flags 150
Red Flag #1 Pleasers 151
Red Flag #2 Disappointers 152
Red Flag #3 Reactors 153
Red Flag #4 Frustrators 155
Red Flag #5 Rejecters 156
Red Flag #6 Being Friends with Your Child 157
Red Flag #7 Taking on Your Child's Responsibilities 158
Raising an Independent Child 161
Be the Parent 161
Teach Responsibility 162
Demand Accountability 163
Encourage Exploration 165
Respond to Early Warning Signs 167
Life Lessons for Ownership 169
Part III Emotional Mastery 171
Chapter 7 Why Am I So Scared? 175
Emotional Threat 175
Emotional Vicious Cycle 176
Fear of Failure 178
Fear of Success 180
Emotional Challenge 182
Emotional Upward Spiral 183
Red Flags 184
Red Flag #1 Performance Anxiety 184
Red Flag #2 Punishment Exceeds the Crime 185
Red Flag #3 Self-Defeating Behavior 186
Red Flag #4 Safety Zone 188
Red Flag #5 Unhappy Success 190
Developing Emotional Challenge 191
Value of Success and Failure 192
Risk-Taking 194
Perspective on Mistakes 197
Respond Positively to Adversity 198
Last 5 Percent 199
Emotional Lessons for Achievement 200
Chapter 8 Will I Be a Child Forever? 202
Red Flags 204
Red Flag #1 Immature Attitudes 205
Red Flag #2 Immature Reactions to Disappointment 207
Red Flag #3 Immature Reactions to Frustration 208
Red Flag #4 Immature Anger 209
Red Flag #5 Emotional Overprotection 210
Red Flag #6 Assuming Emotional Maturity 211
Red Flag #7 No Emotions 212
Emotional Maturity 214
Mature Attitudes 215
Mature Reactions to Disappointment 217
Mature Reactions to Frustration 219
Mature Anger 221
Emotionally Mature Parents 223
Don't Forget the Positive Emotions 225
Keys to Emotional Maturity 226
Chapter 9 What Can I Do? 227
Emotional Habits 227
Emotional Victims 230
Emotional Masters 231
Red Flags 233
Raising an Emotional Master 234
Parents as Emotional Masters 235
Perspective of Emotional Masters 237
Choosing to Be an Emotional Master 238
Developing Emotional Mastery 239
Emotional Mastery Is a Process 243
Skills for Emotional Mastery 245
Afterword 247
Bibliography 249
Index 257
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2004

    Can't recommend

    I have an eight year old daughter who is involved in many activities, but doesn't seem to put forth much effort in most of them. I felt as if I were nagging her all of the time to practice. Since this would only lead to fights, I thought maybe I needed some advice on how to encourage her and make her want to do better. I bought this book in the hope that it would help. Unfortunately, it did not. I was much too theoretical. It let me know why what I was doing was bad (which I had already figured out), but it didn't help me figure out what would be good. I did not get any specific pointers on what to do or say to help my daughter. In short, it was not practical. I need practical advice, not theory.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2002

    Best Book on Parenting Since Dr. Spock!

    This is an astoundingly good book. There is more common sense and sound advice between its covers than I have seen in 40 years of reading on child psychology and parenting strategies. (I am a retired school Headmaster and coach of world class athletes.) Positive Pushing has special relevance to parents of 'high achievers', but it is equally valuable for all parents who simply want to help their children be the best they can be. Dr. Taylor focuses on developing value systems, a strong work ethic, self-confidence, ownership, responsibility, self-respect, etc. But this is no 'feel good book.' Dr. Taylor insists that kids must DO POSITIVE THINGS in order to feel good about themselves and to become constructive and successful adults. There is no 'psycho babble' in this book. It is all plain English and common sense. Parents are coached on how to teach their kids that one of the true joys in life is experiencing the process of achieving. Here are some quotes that should whet a reader's appetite: 'A funny thing happens when you raise the bar. People find a way to get over it, once they realize it is expected. Human beings can do amazing things -- if they're asked to.' 'Positive pushing emphasizes creating options for children from which they can choose a direction, and stressing that doing nothing is not an option.' 'You need to strike a balance between giving your child the first push toward achievement in terms of direction, opportunities and resources, and then stepping back and enabling her to to find her own personal connection with the activity. Your involvement must shift from direction and guidance to encouragement and freedom.' This is good stuff. Dr. Taylor draws on many years of experience working with athletes and parents from little league moms to olympic team members -- and also dancers, artists and musicians. The author does a good job of integrating basic principles with real-life examples. I think this book should be read by children age 13 or older as well as by their parents. I have encouraged Headmaster friends to make POSITIVE PUSHING required summer reading for all of their teachers and coaches, and to strongly urge all of their parents to read it as well. In short, this is MUST READING for anyone who is interested in raising successful and happy children

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2002

    The ultimate resource!!

    In today's world of overscheduling kids and trying to help them achieve success and compete, parents finally have a clear set of guidelines about when to push kids and when to back off. Dr. Taylor writes with a wonderful combination of expertise and common sense. He doesn't 'tell' parents how to structure their kids' lives. He offers practical and proven information that makes the choices of how and when to 'push' kids easier to make. He addresses the issues of self esteem, time management, and helping a child maintain a sense of ownership over his or her own life and accomplishments. This is a book every parent should have who wants to help their child succeed not only in the eyes of the world, but in their own eyes, which is what makes the difference.

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