Written by: Justin Kistan, English & Information Science teacher at Crawford College North Coast
Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking. ~Antonio Machado
It is not that the Way broadens humans; it is that humans broaden the Way.
~ Confucius, the Analects
Where did the term ‘helicopter parents’ originate? Is it from the way they hover over their kids or is it because of the deafening sound they produce when their parental rotors are in a tizzy? Either way, it’s something of a spectacle to behold. We can’t blame parents for wanting the best for their children. It’s something we can all easily identify with. We want the people we care about to be looked after. We want to help them be happy, healthy and successful. But sometimes our help can be a hindrance. We need to ask ourselves difficult questions. When do our concern and best intentions become an obstacle to our loved ones continued evolution instead of an advantage? How do we empower our children so that they are strong enough to live without us? And perhaps most importantly how do we go about making sure that our children will be amply prepared for the struggles of the 21st century and have the faculties about them to gain from its many opportunities?
So where do we start? As the proverb goes, “the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, but the second-best time is now.” So, let’s begin with ideas we can nurture and grow now…
· Parenting styles differ greatly. Julie Lythcott-Haims in her book, “How to Raise an Adult – Break Free of the Over-Parenting Trap and Prepare your Kid for Success”, mentions her preferred style, “AUTHORITATIVE, which is demanding and responsive. These parents set high standards, expectations, and limits, which they uphold with consequences. They are also emotionally warm and responsive to their child’s emotional needs. They reason with their kids, engaging in a give-and-take for the sake of learning. They give their child freedom to explore, to fail, and to make their own choices.” This style with its balance of strictness and warmth helps engender a child’s trust and respect.
- We need to help our kids build self-efficacy. They need to see that success comes from doing work that matters and that it requires effort. They need to have faith in their own ability to complete tasks (without help from their parents!) and reach set goals. Foster grit and perseverance. They need to realize that while there will be challenges in life, they possess the tenacity to meet and overcome them. Encourage in them a Stoic mindset. As Marcus Aurelius said, “What stands in the Way, becomes the Way. The obstacle is the path.’ the world will constantly test them. Can they get past the things that inevitably fall in their way? Will they stand up and show the world what they’re made of?
- While we’re talking about the self, help your kids develop THE meta-skill of the 21st Century, SELF-AWARENESS, which is the ability to see ourselves for who we are, appreciate how others see us and to begin to understand our place in the world. Self-esteem which is the belief in one’s worth and value is important and must be appropriately nurtured but it is self-awareness that removes the blinkers from our kid’s eyes and allows them the vision to accurately tune into their current station in life. Our children will never get to where they want to go in the future if they don’t know where they are now. Help them develop their will and skill. Teach them to build their competence and with that, they will deserve their confidence.
- Give them opportunities to enter Flow – “the zone” in which we achieve optimal performance and feel our best. Gaining access to flow means being completely engaged with a task, preferably something you love to do and setting achievable goals. The task is normally something beyond your current level of skill and this requires you to stretch your skill set and reach to ascend to new levels. Kids should find a hobby or seek meaning in their learning which could give them a chance to enter flow. The more they operate in flow, the greater and more spectacular the accomplishments that our kids will accomplish.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. But it is a place to start. We need to raise 21st Century Citizens. Future adults who are critical and creative thinkers, resilient and gritty in their approach and most importantly purpose driven. Children who are taught not just to survive life’s hardships but who will seek out and thrive on its challenges.