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Posted on Mar 01, 2013

A Great Read

February 28, 2013

Recently, I heard highly-regarded psychologist and educator Dr. Madeline Levine. Many of her remarks were drawn from her new book Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success. The subtitle lets you in on her message: “Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More than Grades, Trophies, or ‘Fat Envelopes.’”

As a speaker she dynamically draws attention to those areas that make you think as a parent, “Man, did I really just say that to my child?” This link to the article “Raising Successful Children” (NYT, 8/4/12) gives you the flavor of her work.

As stated in the article, “The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.” What might this look like? Simple example: If your child can tie her own shoe, let her. It may take twice as long, but she will become faster only with practice. Stepping in too early stifles children’s development of independence and self-drive, and can be interpreted by children as your judgment that they’re too slow at the task or can’t do it the right way.

I appreciate Dr. Levine’s practical advice on how parents can help children take healthy risks to build self-confidence and resilience. “Mastery of the world is an expanding geography for our kids, for toddlers, it’s the backyard; for preteens, the neighborhood, for teens the wider world. But it is in the small daily risks—the taller slide, the bike ride around the block, the invitation extended to a new classmate—that growth takes place. In this gray area of just beyond the comfortable is where resilience is born.”

Also referenced in her book and the article is the term “successful failures,” which resonated with the audience during her talk. Dr. Levine defines these as “failures your child can live with and grow from.” She advises parents to think very carefully before bringing in forgotten sports equipment for after-school practice, “helping” children with math homework by correcting their mistakes for them, or “editing” the college application essays. These practices can slow down the learned abilities of self-advocating and self-directing, organization, and working through difficult, frustrating experiences.

Teach Your Children Well is a fabulous read!

Alison Fleming
Head of School

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