A Bruised Ego Is Not Fatal
I fell off a horse the other day. We were happily doing the fifth round of jumps when the horse I was on decided that one barrel was suddenly a very dangerous and scary thing (as horses can do). He zigged, I zagged and we parted company. It is possible to fall off a horse gracefully, but this was not one of those occasions. I’ll admit it was driver-error – my legs were getting tired and I lost balance. I suffered ego damage, wounded pride and major embarrassment; and to make matters worse, it happened in front of lots of people.
As I lay there on my back, forcing air back into my lungs, I was faced with that overwhelming urge to stay down, call it a day and slink away. This can be a pretty tempting option and one that I’m sure many of us have felt more than once in our lives – be it in the sporting arena or in day-to-day challenges.
How we respond in these situations is not only an indication of our personal character – a test of our resilience and attitude – but it is a critical fork in our journey. Do we choose the Escape Hatch or the Perseverance Path?
We all find ourselves faced with these choices from time to time, but never are they more important than when we are growing up. It is in these pivotal moments that children develop the essential skills and ‘habits of mind’ needed to navigate their way successfully through life. At any age, it is a personal decision to choose between fight and flight, so the sooner we can develop our own courage, the better.
No one likes to see their child in a situation where they are upset. Our first reaction can often be to swoop in to the rescue - to protect our children and remove them from the cause of their angst. This is a natural response. But, it is important to remember that by enabling their escape we may also be removing their opportunity to persevere through to a successful outcome.
As a mother of four competitive boys (all with that intrinsic desire to win, but needing to learn how to cope with coming second), I understand as well as anybody how hard it can be to stand idly by as your child falters when all you want to do is set them up for success. What’s more, it can be incredibly difficult to identify the moment when your loving attentiveness transforms into overprotectiveness, as it has the potential to do on occasion.
In recent years there has been a much-discussed trend of overparenting, replete with a new vocabulary to describe said habits. ‘Helicopter’ parents (those who hover and swoop down to intervene at the first sign of trouble) and ‘lawnmower’ parents (who seek to smooth over every possible situation that could cause their child stress or discomfort) have become caricatures of modern-day parenting, and while the motivation behind such actions is genuine, they have a very real impact over the development of our children.
Many educators and parent professionals say failure – even the opportunity for failure – is a necessary ingredient for raising autonomous, resilient young adults. Resilience is built through coping with occasional bumps, not by only experiencing perfectly smooth rides as they travel through childhood. Children raised in a state of helplessness and powerlessness inevitably lack the emotional resources to cope with setbacks and failures, and without these skills they are destined for an anxious adulthood.
Robbing children of the opportunity to learn for themselves creates full-grown infants who are unable to act independently; one cannot be independent if one has never learned how to be independent.
School and home can support each other in this endeavour to prepare children for the challenges of their future. I was certainly impressed with the number of students I witnessed on camps recently, overcoming that urge to give in or give up, pushing through their comfort zone and conquering fears to achieve feats they might never have imagined they could. Then, the rush of satisfaction and pride they experienced on achieving their goal; it was a joy to behold. These are the habits we should aspire to develop in Kristin students.
So, as our students approach the next round of academic assessments, the winter sport season or upcoming auditions and presentations, let’s support and encourage them. Their road may not be without its challenges, but the small hurdles faced today will ensure they have the skills and courage to face the trials of tomorrow.