‘If only I knew....’
It is a sentence that has, no doubt, been uttered countless times by parents everywhere. We are bound to make mistakes, of course, because we are human - bound by the limited capabilities of our own learning, upbringing, choices and energy reserves. It isn’t about being the perfect parent - but why not use the latest research and findings to help us be just a little bit better?
Angela Duckworths’ book ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’ breaks down years of research and study into the area of what makes humans successful. Over the past two weeks we have been unpacking what practices and mindsets have the ability to positively impact our kids.
So far we have learned not to overemphasize talent, to prioritise play in order to help our kids discover their passion and to encourage endurance in important things. We found out that practice is key (10,000 hours), that pursuit of purpose is crucial and that a glass half-full approach to life actually makes a world of difference. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 over at The Parent Sphere if you missed out.
This week we are taking a look into the important roles we play as parents and teachers and how what we do and say has power in helping our kids succeed.
The Power of Parenting
What does the research say about parenting? Psychologist Larry Steinberg has been studying this topic for years, and suggested in 2001 that ‘there was so much evidence for the benefits of supportive and demanding parenting that scientists could profitably move on to thornier research questions. Indeed, over the past forty years, study after carefully designed study has found that the children of psychologically wise parents fare better than children raised in any other kind of household.’
Warm, respectful parents who expected something significant out of their children produced children who were ‘more self-reliant, suffered from less anxiety and depression, and were less likely to engage in delinquent behavior.’
So, if the sheer volume of information out there on parenting is overwhelming to you, just focus on these characteristics. The person you are to your children is far more important than any parenting strategy or approach. Because who you are matters.
Duckworth suggests this: ‘If you want to bring forth grit in your child, first ask how much passion and perseverance you have for your own life goals. Then ask yourself how likely it is that your approach to parenting encourages your child to emulate you. If the answer to the first question is “a great deal,” and your answer to the second is “very likely,” you’re already parenting for grit.’
The ‘Hard Thing’ Rule
Are your children involved in extracurricular activities? You may not realise it, but this is already helping them develop grit. ‘When kids are playing sports or music or rehearsing for the school play, they’re both challenged and having fun. There’s no other experience in the lives of young people that reliably provides this combination of challenge and intrinsic motivation.’
But the important thing is sticking to it. When soccer gets too hard, or ballet isn’t fun in the middle of the year, should we just let our kids give up?
Duckworth has established the ‘Hard Thing Rule’ in her house to help with this: ‘Everyone— including Mom and Dad— has to do a hard thing. A hard thing is something that requires daily deliberate practice.’ Each person gets to pick their own ‘hard thing’ and they can quit, but only when a designated endpoint has occurred (such as the end of a season).
Creating a Culture for Character
We are social beings, wired for engagement. What and who we surround ourselves with matters. Whether for ourselves or our kids, ‘we become the average of the five people we hang around the most’ (Jim Rohn).
So, Duckworth suggests, ‘if you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it.’ Surround yourself with people who are reaching for something better, who are hopeful and optimistic, living for a higher purpose.
Or just look around!
At BHCS we are privileged to have an incredible community of quality and authentic people. Teachers who want what is best for each child, parents who step up and help out at every opportunity.
When you break down the components of what it takes to develop grit and help our children become equipped in resilience for the harsh world in which we live, it isn’t really that complicated.
Ultimately, who we are (as parents and teachers) matters most as we communicate these qualities to the next generation. Are we being warm and supportive (while also having realistically high expectations)? Do we do ‘hard things’ and stick with them? And are we choosing to surround ourselves with people who are exceptional role models themselves. Or, on the flip side, are we becoming those kind of people for others?
As a group, we rise together. It is our hope that we can all continue to grow in courage this year, doing the hard things and moving forward on our journey to finding and furthering our callings.