‘There’s just too much out there. I try to read about what I should be doing and I just feel overwhelmed.’
You might identify with this statement. It isn’t easy being a parent in this age of endless information. And sometimes, it can feel as if we are stuck in between commentators – pawns in a game where everyone has an opinion and they aren’t afraid to wield it.
And yet, there is a silver lining as well. We are living in a time in history where there is so much data about the consequences of decisions we have made for generations, and this data has the potential to show us where we can avoid making these mistakes again.
Last week we began looking at tips for creating ‘grit’ in our kids – one of the buzzwords that is floating around in the education and parenting spheres today. Angela Duckworths’ book ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’ breaks down some of the research that has gone into discovering what makes some people successful and what decisions and practices contribute to a meaningful life.
So far, we’ve learned that talent is not the be all and end all, that kids should be able to play around in order to discover their passion, and that endurance is a characteristic that should be encouraged even when they ‘just aren’t feeling it’. Check out Part 1 of the article at The Parent Sphere if you missed it. This week we are continuing our investigation.
The Power of Practice
Once your child has discovered an interest and has demonstrated an ability to stick with it, deliberate and continual practice is key.
You have probably heard of the ‘ten thousand hours’ rule, which attempts to capture the reality of what it takes to really become an expert in a particular skill. It takes time and determination to achieve anything and those who are aware of this fact and derive enjoyment out of the little gains achieved through continuous improvement are far more likely to be successful.
A successful life is one that is lived for a higher purpose. It was Aristotle who pointed out a life lived merely pursuing pleasure (hedonism) does not lead to long-term happiness, but a life that pursues good and is in harmony with one’s own spirit is a great life indeed.
And, as our own role model, Jesus, demonstrated – a life that is lived in service of others is one that is guaranteed to provide eternal fulfillment.
Find Opportunities for Optimism
Have you ever done the ‘glass test’ with your children? As in, asked them to tell you if the cup is half-empty or half-full? What might seem like a funny experiment actually has important consequences down the track.
Rosamund and Benjamin Zander put it like this in their book ‘The Art of Possibility’: ‘The cynic who describes the glass as half-empty is focusing their energy on something that is not actually there,’ while the optimist is ‘describing a substance that is actually in the glass’. In other words, one is in touch with reality, the other is more removed from it.
Research shows that ‘compared to optimists, pessimists are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.’ In fact, it turns out that optimists do better in many other areas – earning higher grades, being less likely to drop out of school, staying healthier through middle age, living longer and being more satisfied with their marriages.’ (p 210)
Now, we can’t force our children to become little optimists, but what we can control is our own responses. For, as James Baldwin famously said: ‘Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.’
So, with this research in mind, why don’t you pick one thing to focus on this week?
Perhaps you could start with looking for the positives yourself and talking about them, or brainstorming with your kids how things they are already passionate about could be used for a greater purpose? It doesn’t have to be a huge step forward, even the smallest step in the right direction propels you along a journey that will have exponential results in the long run.
Next week we will delve into the power of warm and authoritative parenting, the ‘Hard Thing Rule’ and explore how culture creates character.
If you missed out on the first article in this series, you can check it out here.
All photos sourced from Pexels.