“…[I]t ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” – Rocky Balboa
Since roughly April 2020, the concern I’ve heard most from clients, friends, and colleagues alike – what is the pandemic doing to my child’s academic and social development? This question is causing unquantifiable angst for many, particularly with no end to the pandemic in sight.
Until our local jurisdictions return to full-time, in-person learning, and even after that happens, what are the traits and skills parents can teach their child or children to ensure he or she is still positioned for success?
Author Paul Tough provides a refreshing take on this topic in his 2012 book, How Children Succeed. In its introduction, Tough describes the book’s mission: “… to solve some of the most pervasive mysteries of life: Who succeeds and who fails? Why do some children thrive while others lose their way? And what can any of us do to steer an individual child – or a whole generation of children – away from failure and toward success.”
Tough’s approach – study those that have, and have not achieved success by academic, scholastic, or professional avenues, in similar and differing environments, to define the traits common among those who succeed.
Tough and others, cited in his book, posit that common denominators for success are not necessarily intelligence quotient, mathematical abilities, reading or writing competence, or mastery of social or applied sciences. Rather, they are, more consistently, character or personality traits such as perseverance, grit, curiosity, social intelligence, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.
Viewed in the context of the COVID-pandemic, what might this mean for you and your child? Well, if Tough and his colleagues are correct, parents need not necessarily worry if their child is falling behind a bit in math or science or any particular course or courses. That might actually be the expectation, given the challenges of remote learning for many adolescents.
Instead, parents can use the challenges of the pandemic to further their children’s perseverance, grit, curiosity, optimism, and self-control. How might one do that?
- Encourage them to test daily the limits of their intellectual and physical abilities and curiosities;
- Incentivize them to exhibit a bit more perseverance and self-control each day;
- Providing constructive encouragement and feedback to reward effort and perseverance, and foster optimism and grit, regardless of success or failure.