Jul 22, 2018
Academic success isn’t the be-all, end-all to living a healthy and productive life. Knowing how to motivate your student – and when to give them the space to learn for themselves – is key to building long-term success through resilience.
It feels as if every generation of kids faces a higher bar for success – earn high grades on a growing number of standardized tests, get into an Ivy League or top-tier college, achieve popularity in life and on social media outlets. Much of their drive for success starts at home, where parents push kids to perfection.
Motivation to succeed is necessary, but when parents push too hard, kids are less likely to develop the resilience and self-discipline they need to sustain that motivation through all of life’s hurdles, from school to career and relationships.
So, how can a parent strike a healthy balance between pushing their child to achieve and allowing them to do their best and grow as a result?
Measures of Success
First, however, parents need to recognize what real, viable success looks like.
Long-term success requires strong social and emotional competence – optimism and curiosity, self-awareness, and the ability to manage negative emotions, especially when encountering a hardship like failure (be it in schoolwork, one’s career, or a relationship). In other words, learning how to fail and to rebound from failure are just as important as doing one’s best within one’s abilities.
Whatever our best intentions to ensure our children aren’t left behind, parents need most of all an open and compassionate dialogue with their children. Get involved. Know what your children are experiencing, particularly when they’re experiencing stressful periods in their lives, such as high school and college admission.
Adapt Opportunity to Ability
Overworking children from an early age is a pervasive problem in American education today. Children as young as five are pushed to learn more and demonstrate their abilities through batteries of standardized exams. Instead of developing a child’s mind appropriate to their age and ability through individualized courses of study, we rely on “one-size-fits-all”, accelerated curriculums.
Pushing every child through the same educational program breeds a compliance mindset, not resilience – and the results often include self-directed and hidden anger, stress, and anxiety with long-term consequences for children’s future success and emotional wellbeing.
Building a Resilient Scholar
A healthy mindset takes investment in children’s social and emotional learning, executive function skills, and nurturing their curiosity about themselves and the world around them. Can your child express themselves freely and descriptively? Or are they hindered by a fear of disappointing you and other adult authority figures, such as their teachers, tutors, or coaches?
Parents play a fundamental role in shaping how their children express their emotional and social needs. What’s needed isn’t a light touch, but the right touch: a mix of parental supervision and encouragement with the space and autonomy for children to learn through their own efforts and mistakes. A bad mark or failure to win isn’t a permanent setback, and parents should encourage children to see these as opportunities for growth.
Being active in your child’s education means knowing the do’s and don’t’s to build a resilient human being, capable of self-discipline and self-discovery. It’s a special relationship akin to mentoring. Stay involved and push yourself to be a better guide.