Here we are at Chapter 6 of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. Grab a copy and read along! In a few weeks I’ll be asking for your questions about what you read, which Ellen Galinsky has graciously offered to answer!
Challenges: If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed in this life, it’s that we’ll each have our fair share. Because of this, the ability to be resilient and to take on challenges has been something I’ve always wanted to strengthen in my own children. It’s an ability that Ellen Galinsky not only wished upon her own children, but which she consciously built in them, and which she has continued to study the origins of ever since.
Here are some of the premises from this chapter, which stood out to me:
The Truth About Stress. I have long found Megan Gunnar’s stress studies to be fascinating. Along with the research, it has been interesting to watch the results unfortunately being over-generalized. As the negative effects of elevated cortisol became known, many adults became hyper-sensitive to any amount of stress children may have to experience. It was useful to be reminded in this chapter that a certain amount of stress is not only healthy, but necessary, and that dangerous stress is “severe and very prolonged stress without the help of others to recover.” As yet another reminder that relationships matter, it was intriguing to read about resiliency and find that even severe stress can be mitigated by supportive relationships.
Whole Child Care. I’m obviously a big fan of attending to the development of the whole child. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then that I found the section on the evolution of neonatal care to be amazing. To read that attending to the infant as a whole, rather than as a housing for individual organs and systems, lead to more effective health care and dramatically improved outcomes was inspiring. Particularly as I prepare to have a new infant of my own, the principles of “individualized, responsive and respectful care” listed on page 265 had great impact. I also found myself thinking about the similarities between that research and the differing education approaches of whole child education vs viewing the child’s education as simply being the sum of several disconnected academic subjects.
Control Counts. As someone who has long self-identified as having “control issues” I found it interesting (and somewhat validating) to read about how control influences stress and fear. It was a good reminder that giving children an element of appropriate control can reduce anxiety, change reactions, cut down power struggles, and can ultimately guide children to be effective agents in their own problem-solving. Which takes us to the next point…..
Problem-Solving is Active. I have long been a proponent of involving children in active problem-solving, so that they can build important problem-solving skills. I loved reading Ellen Galinsky’s suggestions for involving kids in problem-solving, and saw her anecdote on page 270 as a script that could easily be followed. She first began the talk during a calm moment. Next she said, “We keep having the same problem again and again when……” Then she involves her child: “What ideas do you have that would help you…..” I noticed also, within that framework, that she clarifies the boundaries and expectations and then allows her child to problem solve within those parameters. As she says on page 291: “Involving children in addressing the problems they face can be misunderstood as permissiveness…but it isn’t the same.”
Mindsets are Moldable. Here we have another reminder that mindsets influence our children’s behavior, and that the way we talk can influence the mindsets of our children. I first read about Carol Dweck’s research in NurtureShock. Reading new details here made it even more interesting. As a child, I remember some of the self-esteem programs of the 90s. I remember even then, thinking there was something inauthentic in it. This research shows that not all praise is equal — it can be ability-based, effort-based, or simply generic (and inauthentic) — each leading to different responses from our children. As I’ve taught people about choosing their encouragement or praise wisely, I worry sometimes that they take it too far, feeling pressure to suppress thoughtful comments because they might be “wrong”. I felt reassured by Ellen Galinsky’s reasonable moderation : “Does this mean we should never comment on our children’s attributes? I plan to continue to tell my children that they look great or are talented — but only once in a while!”
What stood out to you in Chapter 6?
One more week and one more chapter!