Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

February 2012

Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter February 2012

Thoughts about Dr. Trozzi's Talk by John Gifford, Head of Middle School

Nobles conventional wisdom is that it is difficult to get parents and guardians to come to any evening event unless it has “college” in the title. Just as members of Congress might attach a more controversial law to larger legislation in an attempt to get it passed, I wonder about creating events like: “Talking to your children about organizational skills…and the college counseling process!”

I don’t blame parents; we are busy (we are tired) and down-time is precious. Dr. Maria Trozzi’s presentation on Jan. 18, bucked the trend as we had close to 60 in attendance to hear her present on a range of parenting topics. She was excellent and touched on a lot of the concerns that I hear voiced from parents. I wanted to use this Parents' E-Newsletter piece to summarize a few of her thoughts.

On your children's activities:

  • Look for a “goodness of fit” for the activities and interests of your children. You know them best; it is good to challenge them and set high expectations, but also understand their interests versus what might be yours.
  • Pay attention to protest. When your child pushes back, work to discover, understand and value what is behind the resistance.

On existing in a culture of achievement and specialization:

  • Unconsciously, we drive our children towards achievement; we want them to be unblemished. However, when we are doing the driving, we withhold from them the opportunity to find their own route to success.
  • Practice the mantra: I will not be swept up into a frenzy by other parents.
  • Studies show high achievement and wealth are not correlated with happiness.
  • Think: I want my child to grow up to be healthy, content, compassionate, empathetic and confident. My priorities are not to have a child that is driven, rich and competitive.

How to “guide” your children but not “do” for your children:

  • Be the scaffolding: surround your child with support—without touching. Don’t be the rash (all over your child).
  • Give children the chance to be good problem solvers. (And that will mean resisting the temptation to solve their problems for them.)
  • Find "alone time" with kids to talk about whatever is on their minds. (The car can be a wonderful rolling therapy session.)
  • No cell phones or electronics at the dinner table—ever. Have them “turn in” their electronics before bed so that they are not texting until the wee hours.
  • When your teen is struggling, offer: “Could I give you some coaching?” Talk it through, but resist the temptation to problem solve for him/her.
  • Set firm rules and enforce them. Decide which battles are worth waging.

Building resiliency in children:

  • Young people need to exercise their “resilience muscle.” Allow them to feel sadness and disappointment.
  • When children expresses sadness say, “I’m sorry,” and then remain quiet. Allow them to sit with their feelings while you are there with them. Allow them to learn to tolerate the bad feeling; don’t take away the sadness or try to fix it.
  • Make sure that your child knows that no matter what the problem is, you will love him/her, you will be there and you can tackle it together.

I left the meeting reflecting on all the advice that Dr. Trozzi gave. That said, I also left feeling that the advice was far more easily said than done.

I understand the parent who tells me, “I just want to make sure that I have done all in my power to support my child.” I hear you. As I watch my 9-year-old nervously trip down the basketball court while other youngsters scoot by with great agility, it is hard not to feel the pressure. It isn’t just that the other players seem more comfortable, I also want her to feel good about her play. Why shouldn’t I work to fix it?

What Dr. Trozzi seems to be suggesting, however, is that our children are not always the better for it. She is saying that because of our attention, we could actually be stunting vital development in our children. By not allowing them to feel disappointment, we may be wresting from them the ability to work through pain on their own. By problem solving too many weaknesses, we may be sending the message that they can’t (and shouldn’t) try to find solutions themselves. We might, at times, be doing more harm than good.

As a parent, I want desperately to support my child. It can be excruciating to watch as she makes mistakes that are so obvious to the adult observer. But we know from our own schooling, that the power of "learning by doing" far outweighs the impact of being told what to do. I can’t always do it; my emotions often win over any logic. But perhaps by thinking about it and paying attention to the conflict in my own mind, I will allow my kids a few more autonomous opportunities to build their own strategies for resilience.

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