January 2014 Archives

          Did you ever notice that people who are making it in this world are not necessarily the brightest people you know? The truth is that IQ is not a great predictor of success: sometimes it is the observant, willing, and self-aware individual that does the best in school and life. So the qustion arises as to what factors best predict success: a life of achievement, happiness, reverence for all life, and service to others?

          In his book How Children Succeed, Paul Tough, a journalist and frequent contributor to the NY Times, has put together research and personal anecdotes that begin to address the question of a "good life" and how to achieve it. Five areas stand out for me in his analysis of the components that breed success:

1)    Grit: self discipline wedded to the dedicated pursuit of a goal. Do you and your children have passions that you follow and nurture? Do you possess the willingness to make personal sacrifices in the pursuit of these passions? Can you experience flow - the ability to lose yourself in a task you love? Bright people without grit never actualize their talents, and the rest of us flounder in the "woulda-coulda-shoulda" world of our own unfulfilled expectations.

2)   A positive response to failure: the ability to learn from mistakes, take responsibility for our efforts when we fall short, and look carefully and honestly at what went wrong and what we can do differently next time. Avoidance and excuses do not foster growth but ensure mediocrity: can we model this for ourselves and our children?

3)   Parenting with unconditional love and clear boundaries and expectations: on a grid of parenting styles - with one axis being high versus low affection and the other axis being high versus low control - success works best with high affection/high control parenting. Do not make your love conditional upon achievement - "I love you always..." - but do not accept unacceptable behavior either - "and I do not allow you to talk to me this way."

4)   Support parenting and teaching styles that provide good character education: look for techniques that promote self-control, grit, a zest for life, social intelligence, optimism, and gratitude.

5)   Be optimistic about human development: Quakers believe that we are "growing into goodness" over the course of our lives. Our children already have the seeds for success: our mission is to allow those seeds to germinate and flourish. 

          I highly recommend this book to all of you - a good read for 2014!


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

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