At 10 years of age, I found myself in a very uncomfortable situation. But, nowhere near as uncomfortable as my mom. I was the legacy of three generations of award-winning 4-Hers, and my mom had proudly driven me to my very first County 4-H Speech Contest. She was expecting blue ribbons. Instead, she found her eldest child sobbing, locked in a stall of the women’s restroom. There was no way she could squeeze under the door to retrieve me. I figured I was safe in there from giving the well-rehearsed speech that terrified my introverted soul.
So began the long road to training an introvert to function well in an extraverted society. By the time she was done, I was president of most organizations I belonged to, an award-winning public speaker, and the person in the room that everyone looked to for leadership. It prepared me well for life. It also prepared me for the molding of my son, a child even more introverted than I was, with neurological issues and a slight stutter to boot. Years and many tears later, I watched him deliver a speech (without a stutter in it) at the state capitol that moved the audience profoundly.
It should never be our goal to change who our children are at their core. Our objective is to help them learn to use their strengths to overcome the weaknesses that will hinder them in life.
Here is a partial list of training issues that are important for every child:
1. Every child needs to learn to face their own inadequacies and do something about them. All kids have areas that need improvement: school subjects they don’t perform well in, social situations they mishandle, time they waste; relationships they abuse. Over the course of childhood it is your job to instill in them the courage to be honest with themselves and the skills with which to attack the problems.
2. Every child needs to be moved outside his/her comfort zone. Life happens to everyone and if your kids are protected from all the bumps and all the embarrassments, they will be ill-prepared to handle the real world. Step away and let them face the consequences for their behavior. That is frequently the best teacher. Set up situations often that force them to do things that are uncomfortable (making phone calls, giving speeches, making their own arrangements with teachers, asking questions).
3. Every child needs to communicate well. In my book, this means they need to write effectively and speak in public winsomely.
4. Every child needs to learn to advocate for himself. This begins by watching you advocate for him and is practiced through the years in increasingly tough situations.
There may be a few children born knowing how to fend for themselves and rise to success against all odds, but I’ve yet to meet them. Usually, it is a learned skill that takes years of cultivation. Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestselling book “Outliers: The Story of Success,” agrees with me. He slowly builds the case that IQ is not enough to predict success. Children need to have what psychologist Robert Sternberg calls Practical Intelligence – “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and learning how to say it for maximum effect.” Children learn these skills from proactive parents who intentionally train their children.
Gladwell also looked at studies of sociologist Annette Lareau, who observed that there were differences between the parenting styles of middle-class and lower-income families. The middle-class parents talked through things with their kids. They expected their children to talk back to them, to negotiate, to question adults in a position of authority. She called their style a Concerted Cultivation – an attempt to actively “foster and assess a child’s talents, opinions, and skills.” These kids were daily, actively being prepared to make it in the world.
Interested in learning how? My blog is filled with stores of how to help your children prepare for adulthood. I would encourage you to spend some time reading. Here’s a great place to start.
Are you on our VIP List? If you would like to receive our newsletter, be the first to be notified of sales and new classes, and get special updates, click here!