The July 2 issue of The New Yorker published an article called, "Spoiled Rotten: Why Do Kids Rule the Roost?" that describes the frustrations many parents are experiencing today because their kids are unable to do things for themselves and are dependent on their parents for things that really should be their job and responsibility. This epidemic of spoiled kids has given rise to a new genre of parenting books, such as The Price of Privilege, Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success, and A Nation of Wimps. Kolbert writes: "The books are less how-to guides than how-not-to's: how not to give in to your toddler, how not to intervene whenever your teenager looks bored, how not to spend two hundred thousand dollars on tuition only to find your twenty-something graduate back at home, drinking all your beer."
Raising kids of character might mean doing less for them. It might mean allowing them to be frustrated at times and learning to work it out. And it certainly means making them responsible around the house.
Priority #8 in The Biggest Job is Create a Character Culture. The first important ingredient for building this culture is: Get a Job – everyone needs to learn how to work. If the child is too young for a paying job, they can do volunteer work. A job not only contributes useful work, but instills a sense of accomplishment. Even toddlers can pick up their toys each evening. By encouraging your child to get a job, or giving your younger children jobs, it will build your child's character, and help them learn to be independent.
Next month: Ingredient #2 for creating a character culture-- family meetings
"Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill", the center story of a recent New York Times Sunday edition, should ask all parents of kids of any age, "What am I telling my kids is more important: effort or achievement?"
According to the article, more and more kids are taking or trying to get hold of performance-enhancing drugs like Adderall to help them score better on tests and get better grades. They're hopeful that this will lead them to an Ivy League College, which many students feel their parents expect. "At high schools across the United States, pressure over grades and competition for college admissions are encouraging students to abuse prescription stimulants, according to interviews with students, parents and doctors." (The New York Times: Sunday, June 10, 2012: Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill.)
When parents focus on achievement or aptitude—getting the best grades, being the best tennis player, the best lacrosse player, the best writer—we are teaching our kids that what they do is more important than who they are. In the world of effort, each student must learn to struggle with their own best effort. When "who you are" is challenged and supported, then students will do some pretty good things. And achievement will follow, but without the need for stimulants to help make it happen.
Have you seen the May 21st issue of Time? The cover picture is provocative—a four year old standing on a chair to breast feed. The lead article on "Attachment Parenting" asks the question "Are you MOM ENOUGH?"
Dr. William Sears is the founder and guru of the philosophy. "The three basic tenets are: breast-feeding (sometimes into toddlerhood), co-sleeping (inviting babies into the parental bed or pulling a bassinet alongside it) and “baby wearing,” in which infants are literally attached to their mothers via slings. Attachment-parenting dogma also says that every baby’s whimper is a plea for help and that no infant should ever be left to cry." (Time: May 21, pp 34). The article also includes a box titled “Sears vs. Science” in which the tenets are disputed. (Time: pp. 36; Jeffrey Kluger)
Compare this philosophy to The Biggest Job, through which parents are taught that we all—children included—learn from our struggles. While not suggesting that infants are left to cry or go hungry or that their needs are not attended to,The Biggest Job teaches parents not to make kids the center of the family. This creates entitled kids. Could attachment parenting start a cycle in which the child learns "I’m the center of the universe for my mother, and maybe even my dad?" Instead, Biggest Job parenting asks parents to put principles at the center of the family.
Dr. Sears promotes a style of parenting that is the opposite of what he presumably grew up with. (Time: May 21, 2012; pp. 37). Biggest Job parenting suggests that we be careful about parenting as a reaction or a duplication of how we were raised, and instead parent from a vision of what is best for our family, our children and ourselves. Even Dr. Spock, in his 1945 book, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, says: "Trust your instincts; you know more than you think you do." The Biggest Job would agree.
Imagine the truth radar as something similar to the radar screens of air-traffic controllers. There is a core, or center area, and this is absolute truthfulness. The farther you move away from the core, the farther you move from the truth.
We all want truthfulness—in every area of our lives. How far from that core will your conscience allow you to move before you start to “blip?” For example, perhaps telling a “little white lie” doesn’t move you too far from the core. But a pattern in which you continually tell people what they want to hear may create more blips than you can handle. Regarding the deeper issues of truth, we can find ourselves slowly moving away from our core, until we are far from the truth. We have grown accustomed to hearing the warning blips—and to ignoring them.
If you’ve attended a Biggest Job workshop, you’ll remember the question: “What do we most want for our children?” Honesty would probably be in the top three on your list, as it is on most parents’ lists. Are your words matching your deeds? In other words, are you modeling honesty for your kids in every area of your life? Our commitment to our children may be the biggest motivation: We have to stay close to the core of our truth.
Most people who come to a Biggest Job workshop are honest people. We all want our kids to be honest, yet we begin to move away from the truth when the desire to get along takes over. That's when harmony comes in.
True harmony is a wonderful thing, and in some cultures is that state of being where everything comes together. The only problem is that we usually do not attain that "harmony" without a commitment to first work through the truth.
Where is the weight of your foot in your family? Is it in the desire to get along? Or is it in a commitment to the truth? When the weight of our foot is in truthfulness, harmony will eventually follow. Ask your kids, do you think I am a totally honest person? If they say no, ask them where they see dishonesty in you. And then listen, without defending yourself.
Parenting expert and author Laura Gauld will present a workshop geared to parents, educators, and professionals interested in learning ways to parent effectively. Members of the community are invited to attend The Biggest Job Workshop on Thursday, October 27th, 2011 from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at the Kennebunk Town Hall Auditorium, 1 Summer Street in Kennebunk, ME. Gauld’s interactive presentation is high-energy, compelling, and often humorous; it is based on the 10 Priorities outlined in her book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have: The Hyde School Program For Character-based Education and Parenting (Scribner).
Laura Gauld is Executive Director of Hyde Schools, a network of public and private schools whose pioneering philosophy has been profiled on 60 Minutes, 20/20, Today, PBS and NPR. Widely known for her success in setting up families, children, and business communities for success, she draws on more than three decades of experience as an education and parenting expert.
The workshop is focused on how to raise and teach children effectively. Its messages are straightforward: the way adults live their lives must be consistent with the way they raise and teach children; principles are the most powerful force in influencing children in a positive way; and parents should focus on personal growth to allow their best parenting instincts to emerge. Participants learn specific ways to strengthen child-adult bonds and family relationships, to inspire children to fulfill their highest potential, and how focusing on attitude over aptitude, truth over harmony, and principles over rules can lead to success in efforts to positively influence children and teenagers.
“Parenting is the biggest job we’ll ever have,” says Laura Gauld, emphasizing that “It is hard; it is doable, and it is never too late to raise adults with strong character who can be leaders and make solid contributions to the world.”
To register for the workshop, or for more information, contact Jill Miller, 207-468-8682 or email@example.com. This event is free to the public. For more information about the workshop schedule or the Hyde Schools, log on to its Web site at www.hyde.edu.
Darien, CT—For the high-school graduate—and for the parents supporting the graduate—the prospect of starting college can seem as daunting as entering a foreign country. But leading educator Malcolm Gauld, president of the Hyde Schools, has some straightforward advice for them in “College Success Guaranteed: Five Rules to Make It Happen.”
He will talk to parents and students about his book at 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 12, at Darien High School, 80 High School Lane, in Darien. The event is sponsored by the Parent Awareness Network of the YWCA Darien/Norwalk.
Written with honesty, insight, and a touch of humor, “College Success Guaranteed” originated from a speech that Gauld delivers every spring to college-bound seniors. Gauld expanded on his talk by interviewing college students and recent graduates about their experiences. The result is a book that includes candid feedback from students and graduates of dozens of colleges and universities in the United States, with a focus on the simple things to “do” after enrolling in college, as opposed to the “don’ts,” or negative actions to avoid.
Using a frank, occasionally irreverent approach, Gauld breaks his plan down into five rules: go to class, study, commit to an activity, get a mentor and don’t procrastinate. The rules may seem simple, but Gauld uses the words of actual students and recent grads to deliver essential information. Under studying, for instance, he analyzes the pros and cons of listening to music, how to “rip the guts out” of any book in two hours, group versus individual study and why three hours a day, five days a week is a basic formula that works.
“I have taught and coached teenagers for more than three decades and watched thousands of them go off to college,” says Gauld. “Some just take off like rockets from the get-go. Others either fail to launch or crash and burn before midterms. Independent time-management is the key.”
Gauld will also offer parents five rules to follow as they help their college-bound students transition from the nest to adulthood. His message to parents will form the core of his forthcoming book.
Gauld is president of the Hyde Schools, a network of public and boarding schools and programs dedicated to the development of character in students and families, with locations in Bath, ME, Woodstock, CT, New Haven, CT, and Bronx and Brooklyn, NY. An educator for more than three decades, he is co-author of “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have,” written with his wife, Laura.
Admission is free. For more information about this event, contact 860-963-4721. To preorder the book, go to Amazon.com.