This week the Dearest Team had the honor of attending Parenting in the Modern Age: How to Raise Happy, Fulfilled Children, an event at the New York City Scholastic Auditorium.
We heard from Diane Tavenner, co-founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools and bestselling author of “Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life” and from Angela Duckworth, author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” and University of Pennsylvania professor as they discussed modern day parenthood and how science can help us make better, more informed decisions when it comes to raising our children.
We’re sharing the expert, science-based advice and takeaways from their conversation below!
1. Try not to think about success in such narrow terms
At the end of the day, what we want for our children is for them to be happy. “To me, that’s what fulfillment is, and it doesn’t have to be separate from success,” said Diane Tavenner. “There is more than enough space in the world for people who define success as pursuing their passions” and they are happier and better equipped adults for it.
Our children should get to define for themselves what it is to be successful, whether that means they are climate scientists, the COO of a fortune 500 company, teachers of the next generation of poets or musicians, or social workers. They get to decide. When children discover the pieces of themselves they want to put together, they develop their own agency, are more adept decision makers, and generally speaking, happier adults.
2. Don’t close off children’s opportunity to explore
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way for children to gain expertise is by having as much exposure to unique experiences, content, and challenges as they can for as long as possible. “One of the unintended consequences of creating kids to be the best college applications, is that we’ve closed off all their opportunities to explore,” cautioned Ms. Tavenner. They won’t know what they truly excel at or are motivated by if they are pushed into a lane and never given the chance to see what could have been. Giving children agency, the freedom to make mistakes, and opportunities to drive into something new gives them the building blocks to learn to move forward and the skills they need to grow, to accept responsibility for their own actions.
3. Look for project-based and child-directed learning experiences
Intentionally carve out time for children to deep dive into their interests. “Children who are exposed to, encouraged to explore, and allowed to pursue their own interests help them discover who they are and what they care about,” said Dr. Duckworth. And they’re more likely to stick with that interest for the long term.
But how do we as parents make that happen? Look for an authentic, relevant project-based curriculum and for educators who optimize for agency and self-directed learning over compliance. When learning is personal, meaningful, and relevant, children develop a healthier orientation towards education and are more likely to keep at it when the going gets tough. Sound familiar? Yep, those are the same kids who develop grit. “To succeed at anything worthwhile in life requires persistence, no matter how gifted, fortunate, or passionate you are,” writes Dr. Duckworth. We couldn’t agree more.
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