“Character matters more than achievement!” This statement by the Go to Doctor, Dr G, a regular contributor on NBC, ABC and FOX, Dr Deborah Giboa, struck a chord with me. How is it possible that almost all parents today had a list of chores as children, but so few of them make their children do chores? “Why?” The answer parents give is that their children are too busy.
And when we look at the load that our young people carry, homework, assignments, sports practices, sport matches, dancing, debating, extra-lessons ……there literally isn’t any time for chores.
Managing the chore roster also takes time and often involves conflict. Our parents are too tired, overwhelmed and frustrated in their own lives to engage in the debate why it is necessary, so they just do it for their children.
In fact children have become the parent’s new “best friend”. “I don’t like arguing with my daughter”, declared a mother to me. “I just want her to be my friend!”
So parents have become the new housekeepers for busy 21st century children. As a family GP, Dr Giboa shares about the number of parents who happily seek to medicate their children to help them cope and when she refuses to prescribe the medication, they allow the children to self-medicate with alcohol, narcotics and sex. We see this every weekend at teen parties in our community.
But this group of teenagers are bright, educated and have a voice. They have been taught to think, but their parents are more interested in their achievement than in their character.
It is so interesting that the four BIG C’s of 21st century learning were Communication, Creativity, Collaboration and Critical Thinking. It was Dr Michael Fullan and his team who added two additional C’s to the list, ie Citizenship and Character to create the BIG 6 Global Competencies. Without character and the role one has to play as a citizen, the rest are pretty useless.
Character matters more than achievement. “In general, people who are considered to have good character often have traits like integrity, honesty, courage, loyalty, fortitude, and other important virtues that promote good behaviour. These character traits define who they are as people—and highly influence the choices they make in their lives. “ When we read definitions like this to describe character it makes sense why this is a global requirement for students to master.
According to Dr Giboa, CHARACTER changes are made to manage our stress. Stress drops our T-cells in our immune system by half and there is an 80% drop in T-cells in primary school children before a test. Achievement and Grades are outside the control of the students. Achievement and Grades are what someone else presents to you. Students are IN CONTROL of their effort, their character and their behaviour. When we engage in acts of kindness, community service, display integrity, show gratitude and are generous to others, we physically heal ourselves.
What parents and teachers talk about, matters. Our children may not always listen to us, but they are always listening! Adults model the behaviour for the next generation. They Look and they Learn. It is time for parents to accept the old adage …”Don’t do for a child what he can do for himself!” When children solve problems they reduce the levels of cortisol that cause anxiety.
It’s time for us to start teaching resilience. Every child must do their chores. When problems crop up, allow them to come up with a solution instead of doing it for them. Listen intently, guide, model and let them move forward on their own. Avoid fear because it always gets in the way of resilience. Allow your children to make mistakes. When we get things wrong it builds our confidence and grows our competence – as long as resilience is the driving force. When I was a student in the 1980’s I seldom phoned home. My mother’s belief was “No news is good news!” As long as she didn’t hear from me all was good. When I did call home her immediate response was “What is wrong?” In 2015 the statistics show that College students phone home 12,5 times a week. Parents have to STOP trying to solve their children’s problems.
The days of bubble wrapping our children are over. We have no choice, but to develop their resilience. And yes, resilience can be uncomfortable and yes, they are wired to ask WHY.
It is safer to be alive in 2020 than it was in 1957. Yet we don’t talk about things that are happening in the world for fear of embarrassment and are scared to answer children’s questions.
Resilient children need to do the household chores and learn to overcome, sometimes, with a struggle. Yes, resilient children may be busy, but they know how to structure their time and grow into competent, confident adults.