For the past 70 years, scientists in Britain have been studying thousands of children through their lives to find out why some end up happy and healthy while others struggle. It’s the longest-running study of human development in the world, and it’s produced some of the best-studied people on the planet while changing the way we live, learn and parent. Reviewing this remarkable research, science journalist Helen Pearson shares some important findings and simple truths about life and good parenting.
If you’re helping your kids, you’re hurting your kids.
This is a hard lesson for me. I totally screwed it up for the past 15 years, because I have always been so eager to teach them what I know, and to help them as much as possible. I did not realize that I was making them dependent upon me. No need to think too hard or look too deeply because I was readily available with instant answers and eager help. I am now 3 and a half years into my 3rd kid and I am trying my best to not repeat any mistakes.
One of those mistakes I am consciously working to not repeat is helping out too much. Instead, and against his mother’s wishes, I allow him to fail, crash, cry, get hurt and struggle. That statement can sound terrible, so let me clarify: I do not let him get into dangerous situations. I let him run and fall. I let him try and fail. I answer questions with more questions. Things like that.
You want it, boy? Ok, work for it.
You know, doing that has revealed some wisdom to me: when he fails, I console him; when he wins, I congratulate him. These two situations are better opportunities for teaching than providing answers and swooping in to help. The strength gained by learning how to deal with failure, and the pride in thereafter winning, are tools that he can take with him when I am not there.
And that’s why I am not helping my kids so much anymore. The earlier you start, the easier it is to build these values, so give it a shot and see for yourself.
Last night my boy, almost 3, woke up and came to our room talking about Mamá. He was fully alert, but we put him in our bed with us hoping he’d pass back out because it was close to midnight. He was too awake to fall back asleep quickly though. As he laid there trying, he would pop up suddenly start talking about his deep, random thoughts. I feigned sleep to encourage him to keep trying, and to my surprise he did keep trying.
After some time he started sitting up, looking around the darkened room, laying back down, then sitting up again to feel for me. When he found me he leaned forward and kissed me. He first got my shoulder, on the blanket, then he tried again and got my shoulder on my skin. He laid back down and continued feeling around for me. He found my beard and rubbed it so gently for a moment, then sat up and kissing me on my cheek. I couldn’t help it; I grabbed his head and kissed him back! I thought he’d really start talking now that I had enthusiastically confirmed that I was awake, but he just laid back down and put his hand on my shoulder.
A few moments later he rolled away and then I passed out.
This is the sweetest child I’ve ever met. He never fails to impress me.
MAN I’m jealous of my kids in that that I cannot be an Air Cadet, too!
Seriously. Look what they can do that I cannot:
I can’t get a free (and nice) uniform that instantly commands respect.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in musical band.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in drill routines.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in marksmanship (rifles).
I can’t take part in free weekly training in aerospace technology.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in Meteorology.
I can’t take part in free powered and non-powered glider training.
I can’t get my pilot’s licence for free (high achievers get this sponsored).
I can’t go flying for free, twice per year.
I can’t go to free summer courses that PAY ME to learn new skills.
I can’t decorate that uniform with pins that signify my membership in a world class respected organization.
I can’t decorate that uniform with patches for completing challenging courses.
I can’t decorate that uniform with rank badges that signify my hard work and dedication.
I can’t do all these things during my (long gone) teen years earning me tremendous respect from my family and community, leveraging the opportunities that this generates into a fulfilling future.
No, I can’t. They can.
What I could do is join the armed forces —giving up my ability to earn money — to enter training, be away from my family until that’s completed, then move away to a new city to complete mandatory placements. Someone has a better deal here and you’re damned right I’m jealous about it. I didn’t learn anything important until it was too late. The Cadet program would have made me so much better, so much sooner.
The good news is that my girls will not follow my poorly chosen footsteps.
UPDATE, 2016-05-02: I learned from a trusted source that there is a way for me to do quite a few of those things that I complain so maturely about, above. So interesting to see how this unfolds now…
I literally FORCED my daughters to join the Effective Speaking program in their Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. One of them was easier to force than the other, and one of them was more persistent about getting out of it, once in. –Nah, I’m not gonna say which one that was. Despite the challenges they brought to me, and that they faced, I am proud to say that I’m impressed with their performances.
My eldest urged everyone in the room to become the best version of themselves with a motivational speech about her first time piloting a plane at 12 years old, which was another thing I forced her to do, lol. Her younger sister brought a pair of tears to my eye with her heart-penetrating speech about the importance of becoming an organ donor, finishing it off with an affirmation that she has already decided to become one herself.
They pushed themselves way outside of their comfort zones, and made two very passionate speeches in front of 11 cadets (2 of whom are Warrant Officers, 2nd Class), 2 Officers (one of whom is a Captain and an actual pilot), the SSC’s treasurer, and a single set of parents. At the end of it all the speakers received feedback from the Captain and their Squadran WOII, making it a great experience for me, and likely the cadets, too, whether they realize it or not.
Today I learned, yet again, that there is always –always– so much more to everyone we meet than what we think. These 7 kids prepared and delivered 14 great speeches, revealing insights into how their minds work,, how they perceive the world they live in, and demonstrating the time and effort they put into them. Despite public speaking being one of the biggest fears for most people, these kids all wanted to win. They all wanted to do well. They all wanted each other to do well, too, which I was really impressed by.
The cadets running the event were not paid to be there. The SSC’s treasurer was not paid to be there. And none of the officers were paid to be there. How many kids, adults, accountants or professional pilots do you think would give up their Saturday to operate a speaking competition and give their sincere advice – for free? These are the kinds of people I want my kids to associate with. These are the kinds of people I want my kids to be inspired by. This selflessness in community service is what the Air Cadets brings to our lives, and I am grateful for them.
Each of my kids are chatter-boxes, but they’re each completely different in how they chatter and what they chatter about. I like hearing what they have to say about the world around them, and how they perceive it, so I often engage with them about world events. Sometimes I get literally nothing out of them, and other times I get more than I bargained for when they tell me something that I wouldn’t agree with or didn’t see coming. Then there are times when it becomes abundantly clear that they’re listening and processing in those moments of silence.
Over this weekend I had trapped one of them in the car with me as I running her around town. As always, when there is no sibling competing for attention –or air time– the chattering starts up. This is always the best time to jump in and see what kind of thoughts are bouncing around their minds. This time I had Paris on my mind and I wanted to get her take on it.
Of course this event was not on her world news radar as this particular kid (12) is more into gaming than social media, so she had no idea what I was talking about. I simply said that terrorists attacked Paris, in multiple locations, killing more than 100 people. There was some silence after than, in what I thought was a lack of interest, but she started to ask a few questions about who the attackers were and why would they do that. I provided the limited answers that I could, and after a while she started to make more sense than most people in any government.
For the sake of simplicity, and because I am not one known for a perfect memory, I’ll paraphrase what my 12 year old had to say about war:
“I think it’s stupid for people to be so one-side about war. The people they’re killing aren’t the bad guys – they’re just people who have families too. And THOSE people think WE are the bad guys, too. It’s just a point of view – we are all just people. They think we are bad, we think they are bad, but none of that matters. It’s just killing and it’s stupid.”
I should point out that she added angry emphasis onto “stupid,” as she is known to do when things are stupid (in her point of view).
This didn’t really strike me at the time. I was proud of her for thinking like that and I told her that she is absolutely correct. I pointed out that so many people haven’t reached that level of thinking yet. But, since it was just so like her to say that, I didn’t come back to it until I drank a cup of my Facebook news feed this morning.
A friend of mine wrote, “If you feel so strongly about sending people over to other countries to kill people, just go yourself.” Yea, he is right, and after reading that I was reminded of my daughter’s point of view, and so I posted it there as a comment, just to add some strength to the sentiment, and as the day went on I realized that she had a point strong enough to warrant repeating (thus this posting).
To be honest, I’ve had the same train of thought before as I pondered American patriotism vs Canadian patriotism. I’m not a fan of the Canadian military just because I’m Canadian, which I’ve felt is the default American point of view. I’m not a fan of a war just because Canada has sent its military there, either.
I mean, what would you say war is, if a little kid asked you? How do you avoid telling the kid that war is when two or more countries can’t agree on something so strongly that they start a big fight where the purpose to destroy their land and kill as many people as needed to make them stop defending themselves? That’s what happens: mass killing and destruction, then total submission. After the submission, then what?
She’s right, it’s just killing and it’s stupid.
Praying for Humanity isn’t going to do a thing. What we need to do is think and act more like lives actually matter.
I thought this was going to be a cute video full of silly parenting mistakes. I was so wrong. This video shows some of the worst parenting moves out there. Don’t watch it at work, nor in front of kids.
While starting a business isn’t easy, it will change your life for the better. You will learn to think on your feet, overcome tough challenges, be creative, manage finances, be diplomatic, and lead your team.
Good Business Ideas for Teenagers
Thanks to the Internet, the resources to learn a brand new skill are at your fingertips. Just be sure, regardless of what business or skill you wish to study, that you find a qualified online source to learn from. The Internet, though invaluable, has a vast amount of misinformation to be wary of.