Recently. I heard a mother say “I’m the worst helicopter parent – I can’t stop myself…” [I’ve also heard people are tiring of the term “helicopter parenting.”] So whether you’re ‘guilty’ of helicopter parenting or not, let’s transcend it– and focus on STRENGTHENING what a parent can do - - to build achievers, succeeders and champions.
Let’s start here: those notorious IQ tests –the real ones, administered one-on-one by a licensed psychologist, measure THE SPEED at which people learn, NOT whether or not they CAN learn. Take that one step further - when a student encounters difficulty learning, it simply means the learning may take more time, not that they CAN’T learn. And instantly one excellent quote comes to mind: “All things are difficult before they are easy.” (Thomas Fuller, circa 1650.) So if your teenager is experiencing difficulty learning – in any field, your role becomes supporting their progressive steps toward mastery.
And based on the research findings of Carol Dweck and colleagues – who found that, when students understand that the ability to learn is NOT finite and limited – that they are NOT ‘terminally dumb,’ students CHANGE their perception of “failure.” They realize that a failure is simply a step along the way to success. And that directly supports the notion that failure is a REQUIRED step along the path to success. [The key issue – and this is where parents’ role becomes more valuable – is that the student LEARNS from a failure.] Failure is simply a road sign that says “we’re not there yet.” Remember those family road trips when your kids asked, after the first 4 blocks – “are we there yet?” - Same thing. J
One of the best ways to reverse a misperception is to hugely alter the expected paradigm. When a student glumly looks like – or even says – “I’m so dumb” – or “I worked so hard and failed – I give up” - you could say something like “you got a D? That’s great! At least it wasn’t an F – and you’ve got room to develop and grow. Now how do you think we can do that?”
Or – “you studied a lot for that chemistry exam – and didn’t get the A you expected. If you had it to do over, how would you change your strategy?” [and DON’T let them off with “I’d study harder.” That’s too global and hence meaningless.]
So the key elements are: (a) intelligence is NOT limited, and (b) recognizing that failure is just one step closer to success! [AND you should throw in – those who don’t fail aren’t even in the game!!]