Choices: Part 2

Awhile back, I wrote a post that struck a nerve with quite a few readers called, It All Comes Down to Choices, which I have reprinted below for your convenience. In the post, I asked TGSG readers to come up with a list of the 10 essential skills and/or character traits they think a child needs to possess to grow into a happy, healthy adult. After all, in the arc of a life, childhood is a mere blip, and it seems to be shrinking each year. Aside from the academic skills, what do children really need to be “successful” in the real world?

As always, we had a great discussion, both on the site and via Twitter. This is a subject that got people talking, and they came up with a fantastic list that I would like to share here.

TGSG Readers’ Top 10 Essential Skills/Character Traits:

  1. Sense of humor
  2. Confidence
  3. Empathy
  4. Creativity
  5. Open-minded
  6. Curiosity
  7. Integrity
  8. Capacity to love
  9. Kindness
  10. Patience

Kudos to my readers! It’s a great list. 10 skills or traits that any successful adult should have under their belt. And by successful, I am not talking about money or prestige, but rather having an occupation or craft you feel good about pursuing, the capacity to have healthy relationships across the board, the ability to have balance in life, weather the bad times, and celebrate the good.  That to me is success — becoming an adult with a capacity for joy that isn’t tied to a price tag or a certain name.

Now, the challenge becomes this: How do we teach and/or nurture these traits in today’s climate? The education system, the strive for raising “super kids,” the lack of free time, the fear of letting kids out on their own, and on and on? I contest that it isn’t merely the education system that needs reformed, but childhood as a whole.

What has become of America’s childhood over the last 20 years or so needs an overhaul. A simplifying. A reconnection to the things that truly matter and that will not only help children grow into happy. healthy adults, but to enjoy their childhood — right here and right now. A childhood with a renewed sense of wonder, whimsy, and magic, with plenty of time just to be a kid. These are things that all kids deserve.

I invite you to read or reread the original post, and see if any ideas come up for further discussion here. I look forward to your comments.

Original Post: It All Comes Down to Choices

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Creative Commons License photo credit: subewl

Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here life comes.

~Maya Angelou

I read this quote a few days ago, and I have not been able to get it out of my head since. It’s haunting me, as only something stunningly beautiful can. It’s sent me into reflection mode, which TGSG readers will instantly recognize. Gone are the lists and activity suggestions. In their place, comments and questions that I hope all caring adults will entertain.

As I have written before, childhood does not last forever, but fades quickly into the breakneck pace of adulthood. Ready or not, it will catch-up with them, and we need to make sure that kids are getting the tools to arrive at that destination with the best chance at success. And I am not talking about Suzuki violin lessons, reading by age three, or mastering HTML code by age seven. There is this popular notion today of the Super Kid. A child that is short-listed for Harvard by Kindergarten, has a black belt in Karate, wins every science fair, and is multi-lingual by age six. Seriously? That sounds like training camp to me, not childhood.

Now, let it be said that I am an advocate for a good education for every child. I just happen to believe that a good education is developmentally appropriate, includes plenty of unstructured play time, also focuses on character development, and teaching children how to think and ask questions, versus hammering home what to think. This education — this childhood – is really rooted in giving kids time to be kids. Not miniature adults, nor vessels for the unrealized goals of others, or accessories to highlight status and accomplishments. Sound harsh? Perhaps. But there is a real harshness that has crept into today’s childhood, and for unnecessary, although often well-intended reasons.

If you haven’t already done so, I recommend you read, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. Whether you are a parent, educator, or simply a caring adult, you will find much in the book that resonates with today’s society, and perhaps even within your circle of family and friends. Regardless of where you fall on the economic spectrum, there are many lessons to be learned from its pages.

Another good read related to the topic is, Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students. The changes that need to be made to restore today’s childhood start at home, but education reform is also key. Without thoughtful changes to curriculum, assessment, and pedagogy we will continue to lag behind not only in what so many officials and administrators are obsessed with — the international comparison of test scores — but far more importantly, in educating healthy children with a life-long love of learning who are ready to be the stewards of a stable and thriving society.

Now, this is not to say that everything about today’s childhood is bad. Obviously, there is a lot of good in the world, and there are some amazing young folks out there, and parents and educators who should have their skills applauded and emulated.  That said, I think we can all agree that there is much room for improvement, and that taking care of our youngest citizens is the best investment we can make as a society.

My challenge to TGSG community is this: Come up with a list of the 10 essential skills and/or character traits you think a child needs to possess to grow into a happy, healthy adult. Post them in the comments section, and let’s get a conversation going. In the next few weeks, I will publish our collective Top 10 List and we can look at best practices for helping to foster these in today’s society. Ten too much — how about five? Just think about it.

Regular readers of my blog probably know at least half my list already, and know a few of my favorite strategies to help foster these traits. Now, let’s hear yours!

I’m heading outside to mull things over. Join me? There’s a beautiful Dogwood tree out front, just perfect for sitting underneath and pondering important questions.

See ya outside! – The Grass Satin Guru

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