Conversation about character

Published by Lori Pickert on September 15, 2011 at 06:28 PM

Race to Nowhere” has helped to coalesce a growing movement of psychologists and educators who argue that the systems and methods now in place to raise and educate well-off kids in the United States are in fact devastating them. — What if the Secret to Success is Failure?, New York Times

[T]hey asked Peterson if he could narrow the list [of character strengths] down to a more manageable handful, and he identified a set of strengths that were, according to his research, especially likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement. After a few small adjustments (Levin and Randolph opted to drop love in favor of curiosity), they settled on a final list: zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity. — ibid.

[T]hey also see many … parents who, while pushing their children to excel, also inadvertently shield them from exactly the kind of experience that can lead to character growth. As Fierst put it: “Our kids don’t put up with a lot of suffering. They don’t have a threshold for it. They’re protected against it quite a bit. And when they do get uncomfortable, we hear from their parents. We try to talk to parents about having to sort of make it O.K. for there to be challenge, because that’s where learning happens.” — ibid.

A long but interesting article that also highlights the importance of grit. This article talks about helping schoolkids achieve the “deeper success” of “a happy, meaningful, productive life.” Can you teach character at school? Can you create circumstances that help children develop those important traits? And are homeschooled parents any more "O.K." with their kids experiencing the challenge that leads to character growth?



Comment by jane on September 16, 2011 at 07:05 PM

Guilty as charged! I have to really bite my tongue and not interfere, even if I know they are about to make a HUGE mistake. I'm working on it though and I know my kids will be better for it.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 16, 2011 at 07:25 PM

coming from a background of being self-employed and owning our own business, i think my husband and i are more comfortable with failure (certainly more familiar with it) than many people .. and we probably know, too, how instructive and educational it can be.

it's interesting how non-hs'ers will often say something to the tune of "you homeschool because you're trying to *protect* your kids" .. from things, they imply, that kids *need* to experience .. like bullying .. or (this is a popular one) dealing with "jerks". (note to world: jerks are everywhere. hs'ing does not happen in a magical alternate universe where there are no jerks.)

but .. maybe someone is hs'ing because they want their kids to take *more* risks (intellectual and creative ones) and because they want them to get out there and mix it up, make more mistakes, figure things out on their own.

i think it's harder for parents to let their *kids* make mistakes (esp. obvious ones) than it is to make mistakes themselves, don't you think? it's hard to remember that the path straight through the mistakes is, in the long run, more educational and will give the kid more experience, more knowledge, more resilience than the shortcut the btdt parent could point out.

Comment by shelli on September 20, 2011 at 01:45 PM

Very good points. I agree that kids need to learn from their mistakes. I still have little ones, so I control most of what they do, but sometimes when they are arguing over something, I want them to work it out for themselves or either just deal with the situation. That is, they need to realize that they won't always have it their way.

I also have a feeling that people think we're trying to protect our kids from everything because we're homeschooling. That's frustrating. I don't think they are going to be protected from all the negative things in the world, nor should they, but I do think that by homeschooling they'll be able to discover who they are without peer pressure telling them what they should be. They'll be able to experience more of the world first-hand instead of in the bubble of the classroom.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 21, 2011 at 02:10 PM

"I do think that by homeschooling they'll be able to discover who they are without peer pressure telling them what they should be."

i know this is true for us. i wonder about the wider experience of hs'ing; do hs'ed kids experience peer pressure in co-ops and situations like that?

i have wondered if what people mean when they say "weird hs'ed kid" is often "kid who doesn't care what other kids think". there's a tipping point there between a kid who is secure in himself and virtually immune to peer pressure (which i would say was a great thing) and a kid who can't read social cues (which is what other people seem to think hs'ing leads to).

"They'll be able to experience more of the world first-hand instead of in the bubble of the classroom."

i say this constantly to people who say that hs'ing shields kids from the "real world". it's the exact opposite – it immerses them in the real world! :)

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