A few years ago when I was working with iVillage as a video correspondent, I was twice given the opportunity to attend NBC's “Education Nation” summit where I learned so much about the struggles of the American education system- about what is working and what isn't, how teachers can be better supported by their schools and parents, and lots and lots about Common Core curriculum and whether or not it would be the best thing or the worst thing ever for our kids.
But as a parent, whose own children run across the spectrum of educational abilities, performance, and needs- I was the most fascinated by the sessions that explored the idea of “grit” and the latest research on perseverance that tell us that perseverance is more important than intelligence. So if your child is struggling in school, is having a hard time grasping new math or science concepts, is working hard to try to decode and read new words and master an expanded vocabulary… then what might be the most important thing for your child to learn… is how to persevere. How to stick with the hard thing. How to be resilient.
But As Parents, Can We Teach Resilience to Our Kids?
Is this something you can develop? Or is this something you are born with?
Well according to Dr Ken Ginsburg, author and pediatrician specializing in adolescent development, children's resilience is largely determined by how parents and communities raise them. So hooray! We can help our kids develop this skill! Dr Ginsburg explains in his new book “Raising Kids to Thrive” that there are two fundamental principals at the root of resilience:
A parent's unconditional love is the most important force in a child's life
Knowing you are loved without reservation gives you the confidence to make decisions, make mistakes, and live with the consequences. But a parent should couple that unconditional love with high expectations for effort, character and morailty- so the child learns to hold himself to high standards.
So goodbye to “Tiger Mom” parenting strategies that can make children feel that love is doled out in return for good performance.
A child will never learn life's lessons if he is protected from experiencing them
Yes, we need to protect our children from decisions and challenges that can deliver irreparable harm, but that must be balanced against the fact that resilience comes from making mistakes and learning that we can survive them.
And goodbye to “Snowplow” parenting strategies that try to clear all of the obstacles out of our children's path.
Welcome In the Era of Lighthouse Parenting!
Dr Ginsburg offers this analogy:
“We should be like lighthouses for our children; beacons of light on a stable shoreline from which they can safely navigate the world. We must make certain they don't crash against the rocks, but trust they have the capacity to learn to ride the waves on their own.”
I think this is a beautiful idea, and one that I already embrace an a parent. But I know I still have a lot to learn as I continue to read through Dr Ginsburg's book. But while I was pondering the idea of raising resilient children- I wanted to share it with you!
And if you have a little more time, watch this video of the entire presentation on mindsets, grit and perseverance. It is fantastic.