College application season:
When it’s college application season, even a great day with perfect weather can seem like dooms day. Leading upto this time in their lives, children live out their high school years on a race to get and stay on the honor roll, nail down as many extra curricular activities and AP courses as “humanly” possible – all the while drowning in their course work load only to resurface intermittently gasping for air.
This is true for busy parents too as their lives are not much different than their teens. So, take our word for it, in this frenzy, don’t attempt to push those buttons on us parents who raise our teens with the singular goal of making them college application ready. We don’t recommend it.
A question to ponder:
Here’s something to consider. In this rat race for Ivy League college admissions, are we ensuring we are raising great human beings and not just mediocre professionals? Isn’t it true that in a world where every child is on the honor roll, young adults who are equipped with making big decisions now will thrive both in their personal and professional lives later?
Is the goal of merit scholarships in colleges really nurturing teens during their prime years of high school life? Is our academic curriculum giving our children all the knowledge they need to and want to know?
Let’s face it, the rigor and structure of academics is no match for real life which is boring, unstructured and volatile. Our children are expected to turn into independent adults overnight who can easily survive and thrive in the expectations of college and real life. Here’s how we can ensure that.
The good (high school) life:
High school should be a time when kids should come of their comfort zones and trying as many news things as possible. Their first AP class and their first standardized test aside, kids should explore their interests in extracurriculars, and figure out where their passions lie. They can be an inspiration to little children by tutoring them in their favorite subjects. When else do we as humans have the luxury of stretching the limits of our imagination than when we’re on the dusk of our childhood?
Parents can teach them their favorite dish, so the teen can fix himself some decent food while in the dorm room by himself. Banking, trying a tie are some other helpful essential life skills that can be explored.
Life is not just school:
Teen life should be a sum of its parts – favorite sports teams, music, movies, books, people, plans for the weekend, favorite dessert, gossip, breaking news and dreams for the future.
What would you know about a person from his GPA, if he or she cannot give you an elevator pitch of a minute about his or her passions, interests and strengths? Think about it for a second, when you meet a stranger in a social setting, do you ask him his standardized test scores or what his hobbies are? Which conversation do you think would be the most interesting? When doing small talk, and inquiring about someone’s wellbeing, not his GPA would be a prelude to a long lasting relationship.
A first time for everything:
High schoolers need time and freedom if they’re to take on new responsibilities of driving for the first time or getting a real job for the first time. This is also an age for them to show case their own personal accountability standards.
Instead of giving teenagers a little time for self discovery – with a little rigor and direction – we’re pushing academics and extra curricular activities and sports leagues down their throats as if they are the only things that matter. We’re cramming them into one class room after another to learn History, Physics, Chemistry, Math and a little Writing.
Aptitude vs. Attitude:
A teenage life dedicated to writing cliché college essays filled with grade points and extracurricular activities will not help them solve real life problems in campus life that cannot be solved by GPAs.
Let’s stop to ask our teens not about their grades but if they’re absorbing the content they’re consuming. Do they know the practical applications of the knowledge they’re receiving?
Attitude more than Aptitude in the end determines who will end up living a happy, fulfilled life and still make a good living. AP courses or not, even a trade school or a diploma will reap financial benefits if a child knows how to navigate and face real challenges in life and not give up.
Impart wisdom instead of knowledge:
With such a vast amount of knowledge at our finger tips, there’s no shortage of tools for academic learning in our teenager’s life. In such a society, where the young know more and figure out things faster, what can we as parents and educators give them?
We should give them the gift of timeless wisdom. As parents we should demonstrate authenticity and give them a perspective on potential challenges of their life ahead. We must:
a. Teach them to get good at trying and retrying even if it means failing a good number of times. Help them arrive at their own definitions of success both at school and the future.
b. Leave them to their own decision making and problem solving skills, unless, of course, their personal safety is at stake.
c. Tell them that friendships matter. Solid relationships built on trust and reciprocity lay the foundation for children to fall back on during hard times.
d. Give them the principles to live a life fully equipped for self awareness, empathy and collaboration. (Empathy is how we treat absolute strangers.)
e. Teach them values so they turn into caring, responsible, contributing adults who thrive in the real and online worlds.
f. Help them understand the consequence of not meeting deadlines, expectations, and obligations.
g. Inquire if they have role clarity in what they’re supposed to do. How must they navigate the roles of student, citizen and a teenager?
h. Have honest conversations about the meaning of life, and how it can be simple yet complicated with regrets and worries.
i. Tell them its their choice to live each day intentionally and with a commitment to grow themselves and contribute to others.
j. Help them understand that a single misstep of sending a “inappropriate” picture that then goes viral can have a life altering outcome.
k. Teach them how to improve their self worth through self compassion.
l. Empower them with tools like silent time and “do-nothing” time that can help them bring their big picture goals into focus.
m. Tell them to not believe everything they see on the Internet. Overtly sexualized content and violent video games can desensitize them for any meaningful human interaction in the future.
n. Help them understand the power of self advocacy. Saying NO, if something doesn’t feel right, instead of adopting herd mentality of going with the flow.
o. Teach them lessons that shape their hearts and minds. Ask them deep questions, “What’s important? What’s quality of your life that you want to have?”
p. Ask them what they gain out of playing team sports like tennis and individual sports like chess. Do they know their game skills can also help them build relationship networks?
q. Ask them to label their emotions and face them head on. “Why do you feel that way?” “Can you give me an example, so I can be in your shoes?” Are questions that can help children interpret their own emotions.
Supervise less, engage more. Build attitude, not academics.
Even though we know, as parents, we’re always saying all kinds of counter intuitive things to kids, and keep claiming that we have realistic expectations from our children. We expect them to learn how to be happy and live well-balanced lives with a diverse set of goals.
Children who grow up expected to do well in life actually end up doing well. The problem is not with high expectations, the problem is with having UNENDING expectations.
Let’s teach them essential life skills that help our children master one-one interaction in colleges. Let’s give them the freedom of decision making and time to develop into the amazing adult we aspire them to be.
Look, we’re seeing how children who are not taught the value of reading emotions, understanding empathy and the ability to collaborate are becoming leaders whose moral character and conduct is being called into question. We need to teach our boys how to treat girls like equals and we need to teach our girls how to stand up for themselves.
The bottom line is really basic. If we don’t teach our children the importance of expectations, boundaries and consequences, no one else will.
Thanks to our amazing school curriculum and added tutoring, everyone one of our over-scheduled and over-supervised children are on honor roll. But, will our children become adults who will aspire to teach basketball in poor neighborhoods in their free time?
Will they turn into career professionals who can brain storm in lively conversations long enough to use their exemplary technical skills to build a tennis ball that even blind people can play? If yes, congratulations, your teen is college application, career and real-life ready.