Our Daily Upheaval:
As adults, we’re navigating new territory each day with this Pandemic. But, come to think of it, it might be a great way to teach our children the ways to navigate the unknown. Wait, there’s more to teaching than homeschooling? It’s understandable to feel that way. But, here’s the bottom line. Whether or not our children learn anything from this, there’s one thing for sure they must take away.
Change and uncertainty, two of the biggest upheavals of anyone’s life are always lurking around the corner. And children are constantly learning from their circumstances and teaching us what they’re learning through their behaviors. But, even if a child thrives in school, playground and online, without skills like adaptability, resilience and emotional intelligence, no amount of “school readiness” can prepare them for what’s waiting for them in their college and career lives.
The Current Moral Conundrum:
Today’s children are exposed to an overload of information on how many ways life can be lived – both ONLINE and OFFLINE. They are being exposed to news that showcase controversies and conflicts and images and videos of unrealistic standards of living – be it porn or flashy celebrity lifestyles. They are increasingly becoming victims to online sex predators and harassment, and are seeing images and videos of aggressive and violent behaviors.
Especially, during this Pandemic, they’re watching how their Parents are reacting and responding to daily news. They’re observing how celebrities and companies are using their platforms to push their agenda.
When mainstream media shows children so many versions of how life can be lived, it’s difficult for them to understand their self-worth and the purpose of their own lives in the context of humanity. So, more than ever before, children of this digital generation need a direction to clarify and help interpret what a good and well lived life means.
Teach Them To Respect Themselves & Their Potential:
Encourage curiosity: Applaud your child’s curiosity and their drive to understand things and customs around them. Explain cultural contexts patiently.
Embrace their uniqueness: There’s a reason why diverse teams in Global companies are successful. Let your child explore her strengths.
Practice self compassion: Share tips on how to boost self confidence. “Smile. Dress well. Assume no one’s judging, because no one can really.” Give honest and a compassionate review of tasks your children have completed.
Ask Them How They Feel:
We must teach children when to talk, when its valuable to voice our opinions and when to give up on negotiations or persuasion. We must show them the value of building bridges of a positive network of people through our words.
If a verbal exchange in not acceptable in real life, the same rules apply while engaging with friends and strangers on the internet. Children can be taught to speak to fit the situation and the audience, and to reflect before responding and ask appropriate questions whenever in doubt.
Hurtful words of judgment and prejudice in the real world and the online world behind the walls of anonymity can be destructive. Words also be taken out of context on the internet where the intent of the person on the other end can be open to interpretation in a lot of different ways. Teach them about the power of the word and silence.
Help Them Understand Deliberate Practice:
In the age of instant downloads, meals and shipping, deliberate practice and delayed gratification are skills that can set our children up for success. Developing skills slowly and bite sized one day at a time can lead to big gains in the long run, known as Compound Effect.
Deliberate practice means investing more time on task. Here’s what Grit by Angela Duckworth says about it. The basic requirements that fulfill deliberate practice are quite unremarkable:
- A clearly defined stretch goal
- Full concentration and effort
- Immediate and informative feedback
- Repetition with reflection and refinement
“I learned that being a “promising beginner” is fun, but being an actual expert is infinitely more gratifying.”
Assist Them in Planning For Failure:
Once children understand failure is inevitable, its easy to help them prepare for it. Encourage them to have back up plans for all the possible things that can go wrong. “Set expectations, take stock of all possible outcomes, reassess your goals and try your best.”
Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but he also filed some 2300 other patents in his lifetime, majority of which remained obscure and unimpressive inventions. Bottom line, encourage children to be free of judgment – of what they should be doing and where they should be on that path to their goals inspite of obstacles. “Keep moving without applying the brakes of self doubt.”
Give Them The Gift of Journaling:
Journal keeping is the prerequisite for learned optimism. It is where we can make notes while listening to and reading countless hours of Martin Seligman after a personal tragedy. Here’s how he says we get into victim mode after a crisis.
We PERSONALIZE it, even though we are not necessarily to blame for it.
It’s PERVASIVE in all areas of our life, and we can’t not think of it all the time.
And we feel it’s PERMANENT, although nothing in life really is.
Encourage Them To Create And Make:
TVs are inert objects, they don’t give us a response to our stimulation. But a personal device like an iPad or an iPhone makes our relationship interactive. It makes us feel like we’re in control.
When we send out messages, write on our walls and post pictures with filters, we live in anticipation because of the promise of a response. And, that’s our stimuli. The reward circuits in our brain is programmed to thrive on that stimuli, which gives us a shot of dopamine (the feel good hormone) high whenever we see a notification, an alert or a beeping red light. All these are reasons why we’re so addicted to our digital devices.
Empower Them To Problem Solve:
Ask children to start thinking of themselves as problem solvers. Isn’t that an empowering thought? Now, ask them to internalize this. “I’m down for anything. That’s just easy instead of fighting everything.” When faced with an adversity, challenge or catastrophic situation, teach them to think of what can be done now instead of what could have been.
A problem solving mindset is a teachable skill. See, here’s how. A cynic can change a fine situation into an insurmountable problem, that is his unique gift. As Stephen Hawking said, “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
Predictors of Success:
Of the top three skills that colleges expect to see, we must begin by inculcating Self-Management and Self-Regulation in our children. The ability to perceive our own emotional state and delay gratification are predictors of success in life, simply because,
1. Our inner state dictates our outward behavior.
2. Self-Regulation puts a pause between the stimulus and response.
3. Self-Regulation is top predictor of life success because children who can manage their own behaviors can learn to adapt and navigate challenges with resilience, determination and compassion.
In the end, its upon us as parents to give them the tools to preserve their daily sense of wellbeing.
No time is ever time wasted. It’s all an investment in our learning and growth if we make it out to be. We can choose our daily experiences to be a classroom or a coffin for our growth. PhDs and all academic accolades are great, but nothing can replace the lessons life can teach us. And, oh yes, there’s a part two coming up soon!