From the Principal
“Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child”
I first published my thoughts on this quotation in the Pulteney Review in 2014. What made me revisit it is a book that I am currently reading, The Self Driven Child, by W Stixrud and N Johnson. The authors, a clinical neuro-psychologist and a motivational coach and tutor, have focused their research on the importance of a child’s autonomy and agency in their lives to reduce anxiety and stress and promote resilience and self-control.
“We start with the assumption that kids have brains in their heads and want their lives to work and that, with some support, they’ll figure out what to do. They know it’s important to get up in the morning and get dressed. They know it’s important to do their homework. They feel pressure even if they don’t show it and, if they are struggling, nagging them about it will only reinforce their resistance. The trick is to give them enough freedom and respect to let them figure out things for themselves. Even if it were possible to control our kids and mold them into who or what we want them to be, we might be less stressed, but they would be more controlled than self-controlled.”
Are we raising the anxious generation? We have certainly seen across the globe a marked rise in stress-related mental health concerns in children and adolescents. Feeling persistently overwhelmed by demands, feeling tired all the time, not having enough downtime – all are potential contributing factors to anxiety.
As I wrote in 2014, we cannot protect our children from any and all harms. This is simply impossible. The idea that we can map our children’s daily life course and make their path as smooth and trouble free as possible is simply unrealistic and counter-productive to their development. It is also incredibly tiring for us! What we can do as parents and educators, is to model and support the importance of embracing life’s challenges (large or small) through uncomfortable, disappointing or difficult experiences. This encourages children to develop problem solving skills, courage and perseverance – attributes I am sure we want all of our children to have. In addition, “you can nurture habits and a lifestyle that support healthy minds. Above all, promote rest. Encourage sleep, meditation if they’re interested and downtime…Rest is not laziness. It is the basis of all activity.”
Johnson states: “Lastly, make it your highest priority to simply enjoy your kids. As they are. Right now. Flaws and all. For the development of babies, one of the most important inputs is parents who are warm and responsive. When do you think kids outgrow that need? We think, never.”
Cook, G. (2018). The Case for the Self-Driven Child. [online] Scientific American. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-case-for-the-ldquo-self-driven-child-rdquo/ [Accessed 2 Apr. 2018].
Johnson, N. & Stixrud, W. (2018). The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. Viking.