Let kids fail, learn to take criticism, Hinsdale speaker says

I envied the kindergarten parents at the Resilience: The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Child presentation Feb. 5.

Those parents can go to such a talk, learn positive parenting skills with practical applications and then apply them well before their kids become adolescents and teenagers. In fact the speaker Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., M.S. Ed., praised the parents of kindergartners for getting ahead of the curve on this one. Ginsburg is a pediatrician with a specialty in adolescent medicine, a professor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a respected author of books on raising children.

Ginsburg asked parents what success for their kids would look like. Most would say it is smiling children who also reflect well on their parents. But think: what we really want are people who will be successful when they are ages 35, 40 or 50, and at those ages who will live independently and also interdependently (they visit from time to time), who have positive social relationships, who have tenacity and grit and can bounce back and who are engaged in productive work making a contribution.

The key to success is not to get these kids into top colleges, Ginsburg emphasized, but to allow them to make mistakes, to learn to work corroboratively, to take constructive criticism, to be creative and innovative and to be resilient.

“What happens now is that kids coming out of communities like yours, those kids are not doing well in their 20s because they are not creative and cannot take constructive criticism. It feels like an attack,” he said.

Our children need to learn resilience, the ability to overcome adversity, the ability to bounce back and to respond to stress. It is a mindset, he said, and described the seven C’s of resilience: confidence, competence, connections, character, contribution, coping and control.

Ginsburg also said we want to raise high achievers not perfectionists. Imagine a child performing an instrumental solo, and when he or she is finished, the audience applauds rigorously. A high achiever celebrates the performance and the praise. The perfectionist will notice the one or two people who weren’t clapping. Perfectionists feel judged and have a fear of the “B+” grade, and because of that fear of “failure,” stifle their creativity and won’t think outside of the box. Perfectionists who become adults have trouble taking constructive criticism as an opportunity to grow and improve. Imagine what that is going to mean down the road when that person is in the work force.

Childhood and adolescence is a time to learn to fail and to recover, Ginsburg stressed. To “build” a high achieving child, let him or her make mistakes. Praise effort more than results so that you talk about process. If you talk about results, you give children labels they may not be able to live up to and set them on the path to perfectionism. By praising effort, you praise an intangible and set them on a path towards growth.

Visit Ginsburg’s website: www.fosteringresilience.com for more information. The Community Speaker Series continues when Jack Myers will speak on Hooked Up—How Kids and Technology are Changing the World Today on April 30 and May 1. This excellent series is supported by Hinsdale School District 86, Hinsdale Central PTO, the District 181 Foundation and The Community House. The speakers brought in do not just talk to parents, they also meet select faculty of the schools.

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