This winter, more than a hundred members of our MPCS community were honored to attend a presentation by Dr. Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders. As a pastor and author inspiring a new generation of leaders, Dr. Elmore spoke about parenting of millennials and the emerging generation Z. As expected, Dr. Elmore did not disappoint! For nearly two hours, the audience clung on to every word. Parents left the Kristi Lynn Theatre that night both excited and overwhelmed about what was presented. To recap, we will reflect on the points that most resonated with parents and educators.
Dr. Elmore focused on a list of “Twelve Mistakes We Commonly Make as Parents.” Below are two of the mistakes he discussed. Most of us know these mistakes well because as parents, we make them more often than we care to admit!
WE DON'T LET OUR CHILDREN FAIL
I remember the first time I saw my son strikeout playing baseball. Watching him walk back to the dugout was heartbreaking. For a split, irrational second, I was going to yank him off that team and put my sweet 5-year-old on a team that didn't allow strikeouts for his age group (as if such a team even exists!). I didn’t end up pulling him off the team, and he learned the hard lesson that strikeouts were just part of the game.
In one way or another, we’ve all been there: watching our children fail and having no control over it. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling, so much so that many of us want to clear the path for our child to ensure he or she sees failure or adversity as seldom as possible. While it may help in the [very] short run, this mentality has the potential to be damaging long-term because as Dr. Elmore pointed out, “the world they grow up into is not fail-proof.” If we send our children off into a world without having the experience of failure, how will they ever be prepared to rebound from it? Furthermore, when we rescue our children from failure, we are teaching them to be completely dependent on us as parents; this can stunt their resilience and resourcefulness. So, what do we as parents and educators do?
Dr. Elmore suggested the importance of understanding the difference between hurt versus harm. We cannot protect our children from getting hurt, their feelings are going to be hurt, something or someone is going to hurt our children along the way. Unfortunately, we cannot protect them from everything. Being hurt doesn't always cause harm; we want to protect them from harm, but help them navigate through the hurt. Sometimes this also means we have to watch them fail. Talk with your children about the importance of trying something, even if it means they might fail — as well as the importance of failing. Teach them that failure is an opportunity to learn, and allow your children to see you make mistakes which helps normalize failure. Learning how to fail will build grit and help our children navigate through adversity, which is something I believe we all want for our kids.
WE ARE PRAISING THE WRONG THINGS
Dr. Elmore cited research conducted by Dr. Carol Dweck, founder of Growth Mindset to support this (sidenote: Dr. Dweck’s research is fascinating and if you’re not familiar with it, I highly encourage you to look it up!). She concluded from her research that when we affirm variables out of our children’s control, e.g. intelligence, beauty, etc…, it can foster a fixed mindset. Children with fixed mindsets believe that they were born with their skills and abilities which cannot change. In contrast, children who have growth mindsets, believe that those same traits can be changed and improved through effort and perseverance.
Children identified as having a growth mindset are better positioned for academic and career success. They are more capable of “stretching” their minds, they’re more comfortable with taking risks, and tend to be more resilient overall. So, instead of praising your child for getting an “A” on a test, comment on how hard you saw him or her working to prepare for the test. You see, getting an “A” on the test is out of their control — it’s the teacher who determines the grade and the content on the test. The work the child puts in to prepare for the test is completely within their control, and by recognizing the effort here instead of their results will help foster the growth mindset.
WE MUST STRIKE THE BALANCE
The primary takeaway from Dr. Elmore’s presentation is understanding that parenting is a balancing act: our children need parents who are responsive, accepting, and attentive. They need parents who protect them from harm but also help them navigate through the inevitable hurt. Our children also need parents who are demanding and establish high standards — and hold them accountable to those standards. How do we do this? Dr. Elmore referenced a familiar quote which I strongly believe needs to be kept at the front of our minds as we parent our children: “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” If we strive to do this one thing for our children, they will absolutely struggle at times but will emerge from each struggle stronger and more resilient.
ABOUT DR. ELMORE
Dr. Elmore is the Founder and President of Growing Leaders and a best-selling author and international speaker. A world-renowned expert on Generation Y and Generation Z, Dr. Elmore uses his knowledge to equip educators, coaches, leaders, parents, and other adults to impart practical life and leadership skills to young adults that will help them navigate through life. He has spoken to 500,000+ students, coaches, teachers, and parents about emerging generations. He has written more than 30 books including the best-selling “Generation iY,” “Habitudes,” and “12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid: Leading Your Kids to Succeed in Life.” Special thanks to Dr. Elmore for sharing the blessing of his valuable insights to the MPCS and local community. Learn more at http://www.growingleaders.com
Erica Watford serves as the Middle School Counselor at Mount Paran Christian School in northwest Atlanta, Georgia near Kennesaw Mountain.
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