Recently, I stumbled across this old quote.
“The longer I live, the more important I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than successes, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” – Charles Swindoll
It reminded me of a TED talk I listened to recently with the Year 11 HPE class by Kelly McGonigal, How to make stress your friend. In this address, Kelly outlines the physiological responses to stress in different people. It is not the stress itself that has detrimental impacts on the body but our response to it. Those that believe that stress is harmful, experience a higher rate of morbidity than those that did not. Kelly explores the body's changing response if we can change our mindset about stress and how changing our thinking about stress can make you healthier. As a health psychologist, Kelly has changed her goal and she no longer tries to get rid of stress but she wants to change attitudes about stress because stress energises you and helps you rise to the challenge.
Through the years, as I have moved from student to teacher and become a parent, the way parents relate to their children has changed. Parents seem more anxious about what the future holds for their child and whether they will be equipped for a competitive workplace in the future. Will they have the social and emotional skills to maintain relationships? Sometimes parents fear the smaller things like will they miss out if they don't have the equipment or are not organised enough?
It is perfectly normal to be concerned for our children's wellbeing, particularly during adolescence as they move away from the family unit and closer to their peers. Are they able to make safe choices and are they treating others well? The good news here is that given space, adolescence is self-correcting but they must be allowed to fail. A student who repeatedly gets poor grades usually figures out how to do better. Someone with social concerns often either comes to understand what they may need to change or will find different friends. A disorganised student will eventually figure out how to be better organised. The bad news is that this self-correction only happens after it has become the student’s responsibility. This leads me to think, as parents, we should change our attitude about failure and allow our children to learn the lessons of life.
So many well-meaning parents spend considerable time and energy keeping their children from experiencing the consequences of their actions and therefore do not allow them to take responsibility. Parents might deliver assignments, forgotten lunches or equipment to school. They might try to neutralise disciplinary outcomes or get rules and policies waived. They get involved in peer conflicts and manage the social calendar.
If we are worried about our children being prepared to be happy and successful in life, one of the best things we can do is to stop insulating, cushioning and intervening. Of course, parents can’t let go completely. We have a critical role in guiding and advising our children; we can provide perspective or advice, and help them brainstorm solutions to problems.
We do this, incidentally, based on what we have learned through our own experience, often from consequences we experienced. There might be times when a child is truly in danger. Power imbalances sometimes require parents to step in. But these instances ought to be the exception. If a parent spends more energy trying to either prevent or alter consequences than they do coaching, guiding and reflecting, that’s a sign that something is wrong. Parents can model a change in attitude when faced with a problem; from an emotional response to a problem-solving response where an opportunity for learning is presented. This can have an enormous impact on how a child views and reacts to a situation and these learned responses can resonate throughout their adult life.
Admittedly, it’s hard to recognise that we are intervening rather than guiding and advising our children but we can ask ourselves a few questions.
The wonderful thing about allowing our children to experience consequences is that it allows them to be taught far in excess of our own wisdom or skill. Most children grow up and leave home to pursue productive and happy lives. They will have serious and minor ups and downs. Parents don’t have to have all of the answers, which is reassuring because all the experiences children have allow them to figure things out for themselves as they go.
Life presents each child with an intensive, personalised, highly effective curriculum. Be grateful for all they are learning. Show them how to approach each situation with a positive attitude as the long-term benefits in personal growth and health, are undeniable.
Acknowledgement: Braden Bell
Mrs Jo Matherson