Hmmm, I am not 100% sure all the time how to begin posts! I don’t always have a pithy comment or witty statement to really feel like I’ve engaged a reader. That being said, most of what I write is for my own reflection anyway, so perhaps I shouldn’t try too hard.
In any case I really did enjoy many thought-provoking statements I heard from Bruce Feiler on a recent TED talk he conducted on Parenting. Let me first clarify that I’m not an avid TED talk “watcher”…James is the one constantly scouring through recent presentations, looking for valuable thoughts and ideas that he can apply to work and life, in general. I’ll admit that sometimes when he gets super passionate about a specific presentation I roll my eyes. He knows that and as a result, has become savvy in what he chooses to share with me.
Back to Bruce…
Mr. Feiler’s entire presentation struck a chord with me. While I could probably go on and on about how much I appreciated every aspect of his presentation I’ll settle on sharing a few points, how they impact my thinking, and if you’d like to watch it yourself, I’ll include the link at the end! So he started with acknowledging a study done that made parents aware that what their children craved most was having parents that were less stressed and less tired! I know, I know…we all chuckle, and smile knowingly, “our children will understand when they’re parents”. But his follow-up was very challenging to me as I realized that there are so many small ways that can help my family become happier, more connected and generally more healthy.
As a Christian, I understand that my ultimate source of the above mentioned things comes from God. BUT, I also recognize that God has given us minds for a reason, not to blindly follow but to actively choose what we will embrace. While there was no spiritual emphasis in any of his discussion, I feel the values Feiler was trying to prioritize can be widely embraced by all walks of life and biblically speaking, a cohesive family falls pretty high on the scale of God’s calling to his followers.
Give them practise.
I think it would be safe to sum Feiler’s entire discussion up with one point…”give them practise in becoming independent”. While we may not use those words exactly, the reality of what we are doing as parents is in fact, trying to raise our children in ways that allow them to become independent, successful people (by “successful” I do NOT mean, make lots of money). From this point of understanding everything he says lines up with creating a family unit that nurtures and cares for a child in a way that will then bring them to this place. He explains first that “children who plan their own goals, set weekly schedules, evaluate their own work, build up their frontal cortex, and take more control over their lives”. Hmmm, I’m pretty sure I’d like my kids brains to grow in useful ways and if along the way they’re learning some great life skills, that’s an added bonus.
Feiler gives a few great reasons for why we would want to transform our home environment to enable our children’s independence but what I loved the most was his acknowledgement of the fact that “children need to succeed on their own terms and occasionally, fail on their own terms”! It’s not something we like to see in practise but it’s a VERY valuable way for our children to learn how to navigate the waters of success and failure, learning from their mistakes and moving forward from a situation. He used the example of his own daughters and the way they were spending their allowance. While he was busy trying to “control” how they spent their allowance, a friend chided him with this thought…”It’s much better to drive into a ditch with a $6 allowance, than a $60,000 salary, or a $6,000,000 inheritance”. Okay first let’s recognize that there are very few children that will ever have a $6,000,000 inheritance but a $60,000 salary is not unreasonable and I know that I’d like my kids to have a pretty good grasp on how to use their money wisely as they grow into adulthood.
So to summarize…
Feiler’s final statements brought everything down to three “planks” which I thought were pretty straight forward and could really fit into any family dynamic, and take a multitude of forms. The first was simply, “adapt all the time”…be flexible and open-minded when it comes to new ideas in your parenting repertoire. The second was, “empower your children”…recognize that they are capable individuals and give them opportunity to see it themselves. The third one was pretty unique and something I haven’t really touched on but it’s worth watching just to see him tie it in, “tell your story”. He shares the value for our children in understanding what their larger narrative looks like. One final thought that I fully appreciate as something to carry into all aspects of my life…”worry less about the bad times and build up the good times”.
Worth the 18 minutes:
In sharing these thoughts I’ve skipped around a bit. His presentation was much more concise and chalked full of some practical ideas that we’re going to try ourselves (I’ll tell you a bit more about those once we’ve implemented them and recorded some results). If you’re looking for some inspiration and some practical ideas, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to listen. Try to listen once and give it some time to sink in and then listen again to take notes. And if you have some time let me know what you think! I’m always interested in feedback and dialogue about resources I’ve come across. Different perspectives make things interesting.