Last night I had the wonderful pleasure of speaking at St. Luke’s Episcopal School in San Antonio. I loved getting to meet the terrific families and enjoyed the great conversation that ensued on the topic of taming youth entitlement; but, one of the sweetest pleasures was getting to know Tom McLaughlin, St. Luke’s Head of School. His passion on eradicating entitlement and, more importantly, raising up leaders fills every hall and classroom in that school. I asked him if I could share with you something he wrote to encourage the parents and families in his school. I hope you are inspired like me.
Thanks, Tom …. and thanks for walking the road with me.
TOP TEN LIST …. for helping your tween/teen become AUTONOMOUS & RESILIENT
1) Encourage your son/daughter to make close friends and acquaintances at school.
A strong sense of connection to the people here will deepen his/her commitment to the values and expectations of this community. Urge him/her to invite friends to your home. Aid him/her in planning social opportunities outside of school.
2) Foster his/her independence at any opportunity, allowing your child to begin standing alone.
Let him/her become fully responsible for homework and assignments. Provide guidance without taking over. Help create a structure and suitable environment for learning at home. When he/she gets to college, you won’t play an active role in managing school – let him/her practice this independence now.
3) Allow your son/daughter to make mistakes (even to fail) without stepping in to take away heartache or disappointment.
Sounds crazy, right? Mistakes can be a powerful teacher (skinned knees can be a blessing). Right now, the consequences of your child’s mistakes are generally not life-altering. If your child forgets an assignment at home, do not attempt to get it to him/her. Let the natural consequences follow.
4) Celebrate the effort that your son/daughter invests in his/her schoolwork, either as much as or more than you reward the results.
Let your child know that you see and treasure the hard work he/she invests, even when the outcome may not be completely satisfying. Perseverance and diligence – not just good grades – are keys to lifelong learning.
5) Nourish your child’s interests outside of school. Don’t allow him/her to “give up life” in order to do well in school.
The rigors of our academic program should not prevent your child from engaging in other meaningful activities that help him/her uncover gifts, to become interesting people. While we expect our students to work hard, we do not intend for schoolwork to stand in the way of church activities, Scouts, music/dance lessons and sports. Though studies come first, help him/her strike a balance.
6) Expect your son/daughter to become responsible for his/her possessions and the resources that he/she needs for school success.
Let him/her pack the backpack each night. Don’t accept that he/she is “so disorganized” and cannot keep track of things without relying on you. When items are lost, consider having him/her pay for replacement. Maintain high and consistent expectations.
7) Encourage your child to begin communicating directly with his/her teachers if concerns arise or when assistance is needed.
Self-advocacy is another skill that can only be gained through practice. When your child needs help, push him/her to seek it directly, rather than your handling it for him/her. If you choose to meet with a teacher, include your child in the dialogue. Help him/her take possession of academic successes and struggles. You won’t be able to do this later, so allow him/her to take this on now.
8) Remind your child that he/she can do hard things and should take risks to face challenges that initially seem impossible.
Growth occurs when we move toward things that make us uncomfortable and that may not come naturally. If we do only what is easy, we will never make progress. We will push your child to go higher and further than ever before; stand with us in conveying this “Can Do” message.
9) Encourage your son/daughter to practice setting personal goals, self-monitoring his/her progress, and assessing his/her own performance.
School and parents are usually quite competent in directing and providing feedback to young people; we don’t shy away from telling them what we think of them or their work. Encourage them to do this for themselves. Have him/her create visual reminders (like a prominent whiteboard in the bedroom) that will help keep track of where he/she is headed and what is coming.
10) Require your child to stick with the commitments that he/she has made, even when he/she “second guesses” the rightness of a choice.
Students at this age can be remarkably fickle; their interests seem to alter on a daily basis. When they have decided to play soccer, join a club, or start music lessons, expect them to stick with it even when things are not going well. Your child will wander quite naturally. Help him/her learn the values and character that come from honoring commitments once they are made.