Helping Kids Strengthen Their Grit Muscles (The Parent Edition)

In a previous post, I touched upon the negative impact that schools overly focused on grades can have on our kids.  Students who just work as hard as it takes to get an A sometimes leave high school without any real experiences with overcoming obstacles, extending themselves, and really working hard.  This was not meant as a criticism of individual schools or teachers, but really a commentary on the way most schools assess students.

However, the strengthening of grit, resilience, or whatever synonym you choose to describe this quality in which our kids overcome struggles to gain the experience and confidence that will help them deal with future struggles, needs reinforcement on the homefront as well.  As parents, how can we do a better job helping our kids build their capacity to deal with the obstacles that are sure to come their way?

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My number one recommendation would be for parents to help their children improve their self-reflection skills.  Take some time before you react to a situation where your child is struggling or failing at something, especially if there is a lot of emotion involved.  From personal experience, I know this can be hard…

One of the areas I often see parents potentially hurting the grit of their students is in at youth sporting events. Whether it is blaming the referee or questioning the coach, the underlying message is that it was someone else’s fault that the team did not win. This behavior leads to a lack of self-reflection and in turn a focus on areas that could be improved upon.  This is true whether it is a failure in sports, school, the workplace, a relationship, etc.

Ultimately, we need to help our children see the bigger picture with situations that don’t go as well as they hoped.  After they have some time to process the disappointment, we need to encourage them to reflect honestly on their own performance and if there is anything that they could have done differently. We need to help them avoid a default reaction that blames people or things that they do not have control over. Our inclination to cushion the blow when our kids come up short may be appropriate in some instances, but if it is our default reaction then we are doing our kids a huge disservice.

A Trip To Lowell Mills

I was thrilled to accompany the Memorial third graders on their annual field trip to Lowell Mills yesterday.  I had a great time learning about the history of the textile mills that operated along the Merrimack River canal.

We had an opportunity to learn about the construction of the mills and the development of the surrounding area in the early 19th Century. In addition, we got to see the different roles that men and women would have had both on the farm and at the mills. It was a definite eye-opener to see the relentless schedule of the Lowell Mills Girs who stayed 5 or 6 to a small room and worked from morning until night with few breaks.

Finally, we ended our visit with a firsthand experience picking cotton seeds out of cotton. After spending some time developing their own tools to pick out the seeds, they all got a chance to spin the wheel on the Cotton Gin.

The students in Mrs. Kippenberger’s and Mrs. Ferullo’s classes were a joy to spend the day with. Thanks again for the invitation!

 

 

 

Helping Kids Strengthen Their Grit Muscles

Back in December, I read Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron. While the book centers on training athletes, a number of the insights that Bergeron shares are relevant to personal improvement.  Bergeron also has a regular podcast that you can follow on YouTube or iTunes which digs into some of the topics covered in the book.

In the most recent episode of the podcast, the discussion centered around grit and how we can build resilience.  Bergeron shared a story of his brother who earned high marks in school without much effort and discussed how this lack of a challenge does not prepare someone for some of the obstacles that are certain to come in the future.

The quote below is the one that stuck with me.

“People who thrive without a lot of effort sometimes struggle when they hit the wall if they have not learned how to work through struggles and show grit.”

I have a child who had an experience similar to Ben’s brother and earned high marks through high school without extending himself. He was routinely on the high honor roll by working for the A and nothing more. Unfortunately, in some cases, this required very little effort and in most cases, his studies did not lead to any deep learning. We need to work harder in schools to make learning about something more than grades.

I have another child who has also achieved high honors throughout her career by spending a much greater amount of time at her studies. Her results have been very similar, but the effort she has put in is markedly different. Listening to the podcast on grit, I couldn’t help wondering which child would be more adept at handling challenges moving forward.

How can we do a better job in rewarding the effort and not just the results?

Some Thoughts on Balance

Listening to an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast recently, Tim talked the fact that he schedules a trip with his siblings and parents once a year to ensure that there is quality time each year that he can count on with them.  This made me think of my life with a couple of kids in college and another on the way next year.  While it is certainly joyful to have kids head off to the next phase of their lives, these events also bring the bittersweet realization that the majority of our time together has come to an end. 

The podcast led me to a blog post titled The Tail End by Tim Urban on his blog Wait But Why

The line that stuck out to me was the following one from Urban’s post:

“It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.”

The image below from the post also puts things in perspective in regards to the percentage of time we have with our children during their lifetime. 

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As we are early on in a New Year, a point where many people try to look at their routines and behaviors in order to have a more meaningful 2018 and beyond, I think it is a good time to consider this. I struggle to think of situations that should take precedence over meaningful time with family.  So as you tweak your routines and priorities, I hope that you are able to consistently keep time with your loved ones at the top of your list.

 

 

 

Planning For A New Year

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Ringing in the New Year provides an opportunity for a revision to the game plan. What should we start doing more often? What should we start doing less often? Many people will set resolutions that they will fail within a short period of time. Having been a victim of this myself numerous times, I tend to stay away from resolutions.  A post on LifeHack by Daniel Wallen, 10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail, highlights the reasons most resolutions don’t stick.

I read three other recent posts about how individuals attempt to set themselves up for success in the New Year:

  1. 4 Ways To Make 2018 The Best Year Of Your Life – Dan Rockwell’s Leadership Freak Blog
  2. 4-Hour Work Week Author Tim Ferriss Is Convinced New Year’s Resolutions Are A Waste of Time –  Richard Feloni on Business Insider
  3. My Three Words for 2018 – Chris Brogan

My personal approach for the year is to set three specific areas to work on improving and to track my results by reflecting daily. I think it is important to track progress daily and to measure my progress weekly and monthly in the areas in which I am looking to improve.  If I miss the mark for a day or a week, I will revise my gameplan in order to get back on track.

I know that my success in achieving my goals will be dependent on my ability to manage my time effectively.  This post from Tim Denning, You’re Wasting Your Spare Time and It’s Killing Your Success, really summed up the excuse of too little time nicely.

Should We Ban Technology In Classrooms and Meetings?

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Last Tuesday’s New York Times had an article on the downside of taking notes on a laptop.  The piece, Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meetingwas written by University of Michigan Professor Susan Dynarski who bans electronic devices in her classroom.  Dynarski cites research from Princeton, UCLA and a few other schools where students who were allowed to take notes electronically performed worse than students who took notes with a pen and paper.

A follow-up post on The Verge yesterday gave a great summary of the article. I especially liked the conclusion:

Writing things by hand is becoming less common as gadgets and speech recognition software continue to replace pen and paper, but it’s long proven that handwriting improves motor skills, memory, and creativity. So even though note taking with a laptop might be faster, you might want to think about how much information you’re retaining.

My final thoughts on this center around the idea that we need to take away the opportunity for the individual to make the choice on which method works best.  As students get to the later stages of high school and move on to college, shouldn’t they have the chance to choose the tool that works best for them?  If people become aware that their productivity drops when they take notes on a device, will they still choose to work in the same manner? Isn’t the process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t a critical part of the learning process?

I can’t help thinking about the Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  This framework includes “students’ self-evaluation and reflection on process and product integrated into the learning process and contributing to students’ continued growth.”

In short, we need to be careful that banning is not our default reaction. We will teach students a great deal if we help them be more introspective about what works best for them.