How do we help our children be happy, successful, self-directed learners?
How do we help them love learning and want to learn all life long?
That was the question I wanted to discuss last week at the HSC.org annual conference. And so did other parents, some with toddlers, middles, tweens and teens. We love our children so much and want to help them prepare for their future. Sometimes you want to hear the story of someone who has already traveled the road you are on. It was exactly the boat I was in back when Dale left school at the end of 5th grade, and we were feeling scared and overwhelmed about jumping off the well known and accepted path. Attending this conference was where I found examples, community, and courage.
More parents than could fit squeezed into a room that was not well designed for the kind of small group sharing and shifting into interest related discussion groups I had envisioned. I talked too long, trying to fit too much information into a small amount of time, sharing too many stories and suggestions in answer to questions. We didn’t end up completing the HAPPY actions plans that I’d promised, so I decided I’d to put the slides and resources here on the blog.
After the workshop an attendee said,
“I really liked when you told us about your mistakes. Because that made me feel like, well if she made mistakes and it still turned out all right for Dale, well then maybe I can do it, too. I think you should tell more of your mistakes.”
For some reason it’s easier for me to TALK about my embarrassing moments when I can see your eyes and hear your laughter than write about them here in my study. But I want to remind you that all of my insights are based on mountains of mistakes. Hindsight, is 20/20 right? They are also informed by years of reading, research, talking with other parents and getting to look back at what we did, talk with Dale, and analyze our many mistakes, goofs, and what seemed to work best for us. Let me assure you I had, and still have, many moments that make me cringe, and believe me, many times of apology and angst.
And, happily many things that ended up working out.
My biggest regret?
That we wasted so much time worrying and stressing about the future instead of enjoying the moment. That we so often fell into the trap of focusing on fear and deficits instead of strengths. When we focus on our fears, we inadvertently give our kids(especially teens) the idea that we don’t think they are ______enough to figure things out.
The academics are in many ways the least important learning.
Learning how to connect, to confidently be ourselves, and to find the ways we can each contribute in ways that work for us and are valued by the community are the challenge.
How to do that again and again, joyfully, is what we want our kids to learn so they can be happy, successful and self-directed lifelong learners.
It’s not a one time deal. It’s a process – as needs change, as we learn and grow, as circumstances change, we have to adapt. And we can show them that we are taking responsibility and choosing to learn, joyfully, all the time!
The workshop was designed to cover three sections –
Section 1 – How do we define happiness, success and what we want for our kids and then how do we go about creating that?
Section 2 – Specifically what makes us happy and what are things we can do to increase or manage our happiness? And how can we apply this to ourselves and the members of our family? This is where the HAPPY action plan comes in.
Section 3 – Self-direction and how do we transfer the process and ownership of learning to the child? How do we prepare them so they take on managing the aspects of their lives that influence their feeling happy, successful and fulfilled?
Of course, when you’re talking about learning and real life, things don’t really break down into three neat boxes. There are a lot of overlapping ideas and underlying assumptions. Life and learning are messy and not linear. So today is the first in a series I aim to complete this week to give you the information from the workshop and a chance to work through it on you own.
I hope you will engage and wrestle with the ideas as well as filling out the HAPPY Action plan.
Please add your questions and ideas so we can have a conversation in the comments!
I will add links to the other sections of the series as I get them published, and if you sign up for the newsletter and let me know you want them, I will send you the PDF.s. So let’s go.
What do you mean by happiness and success?
“Happiness does not rely on who you are, or what you have, but solely on what you think. ”
And from Maya Angelou on success:
“Success is liking who you are, what you do, and how you do it. ”
But more importantly, what do YOU mean, how do you define happiness and success?
Go ahead, get some paper and something to write with and get your ideas down to complete these sentences:
What I want for my child….
What I think my child might want for themselves….
( If you want put them in the comments )
What can you do to help your child be happy?
How can you do it?
If happiness and success are more internal than external, what can you do to help your child be happy? Be curious and courageous and feel successful in learning and life? How do you keep that curiosity and creativity alive?
You choose to:
1. Create conditions for trust and courage.
2. Embrace who they are and be WITH them on their journey. Embrace unconditional love.
3. Let Go: provide options, show them a process and transfer power and decision making.
4. Model the values you want them to learn, be the change you want to see.
5. Pay attention, listen, reflect and connect.
We choose to be brave and take a completely honest look at ourselves and ask some important questions:
- How am I operating? What conditions have I created so far?
- Do I love conditionally or unconditionally?
- What do I believe and want? Why?
- Are my actions consistent with what I am trying to create?
- Is my child hearing/or experiencing the message I am intending?
And then you have to look at your answers and decide what you will do.
This is not easy stuff. Sometimes we have a lot of work to do on ourselves. Even if we thought we’ve already done the work.
( I wish I had recorded my workshop because I suspect this is one of the areas I was sharing a LOT of my mistakes! I’m working up the courage to be vulnerable enough to try to make some videos.)
Go Against the Grain.
And once we reflect, we choose to be brave and do what we need to do even if it is scary, or unpopular or different.
We allow our children to be different – from us, from sibs, from neighbors. We celebrate differences, instead of trying to fix them.
We are willing to go against the grain.
(Even when family members give us a hard time, and former friends stop speaking to us. This is such a great way to model standing up to peer pressure!)
And one critical way to go against the grain is to focus on love, not fear.
To see strengths rather than deficits, and opportunities instead of problems, abundance instead of lack.
To honor intrinsic motivation and focus on the joy of learning and doing, not results and rewards or grades, prizes or external factors.
We can choose acceptance instead of resistance. Acceptance of what is, ourselves, our situations, our “perfectly imperfect” children just the way they are.
Oh, if I could take back the times I’ve said, “why can’t you just be…”
It is so easy to get caught up in the fears and to think we need to optimize our kids! Or make them into something they aren’t.
Or we do it to ourselves, a surefire way to curtail our creativity and confidence.
What mindsets are you operating under?
Your mindsets and mantras, those tapes playing in your head, can make a huge difference in your day.
I always liked the Ms. Frizzle approach; the books were new to the scene when Dale was young.
Take chances, get messy, make mistakes. Do things. Show up, try and fail and get up again.
Let your children do things, too. Let them take chances and get messy and make mistakes.
Zip your lips while they figure things out. I am so guilty here. Talk too much, trying to control the outcome.
Stepping back to look at ourselves and the big picture, long term goals will serve our children and us well. It helps you have a touchstone, to know why you do things and what your priorities are to help you make choices in line with your values. It helps when you feel like you need to defend your choices or hit a rough patch. (And there will be rough patches, count on it. That’s life !)
I heard several moms talk about the feeling of competition, and stress and pressure to be a certain way, or make sure their kids participate in __________________, or which kind of curriculum to pick, or thinking ahead to college and future issues.
If you are feeling like that, stepping back for some reflection and meditation can help and take a look at the big picture and creating the mindsets, and establishing the skills, habits, values and priorities that will serve your children for a lifetime no matter where there path leads. To help them know and love themselves, learning and how to make their ideas happen.
What mindsets and skills did we try to instill? Here is what we were aiming for:
Growth + L.A.T.T.E. that you can learn and improve if you are intentional, deliberate, and show up. Mistakes or failure are okay, they are data for growth and learning. And you are Learning All The Time Enthusiastically! Learning happens anywhere, anytime, and you can learn from anyone.
100% Responsibility : What you choose to do, everyday, matters. You are responsible for your life and learning and actions.
Reflective:a daily practice of honest reflection helps you keep your actions in line with your values. Honesty and integrity rule.
Connection: We are all connected. Helping others is the way to help yourself. Connect, contribute and express gratitude. Think, how would I feel if …
Skills & Habits
What I like to call the 5R’s
Values & Priorities
courage + integrity + honesty + empathy+ respect + community
Phew. That’s a lot to take in.
What do you think are the mindsets you want to model for your children?
What values and priorities guide your life?
What skills do you think will serve your child best in life?
What habits do you want them to develop?
What do you think will help them succeed regardless of subject matter or interest?
What can you do each day?
Everyday we show up. We love. We ask hard question, try new things and do what matters.
And the next day, even if we are tired, we get up and do it again, with a smile.
We get to model for our kids how we take responsibility and work to create the lives we want.
Ask hard questions, try new things, do what matters.
What will you do today?
To be continued.
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