Traveling over break? Take a minute to download the book talk presented to STS parents by authors Dr. Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson, last Friday morning. You can listen to it like a podcast, as there are no visuals in the talk, simply deep wisdom for parenting. Bill and Ned spoke with a large room of parents on March 23rd, emphasizing research on how to support our children's ability to manage stress and empowering their own journey. There were so many excellent references and discussion worthy points during this engaging hour-and-a-half presentation. Included in the key ideas shared, they spoke of providing our students with a greater sense of control, autonomy, and choice; this is key in reducing unhealthy levels of stress. Bill shared an acronym of N.U.T.S. which contributes to our stress levels: Novelty, Unpredictability, perceived Threat, and low Sense of control. In addition, research was shared about the power of teaching our children to be stress tolerant, rather than avoidant. The exposure and successful management of stressful pressures can be mediated by the positive, nurturing support of parents, not the rescuing of the child from the stressful nature of life. "When things don't come easy (which can be stressful at first), that is when we get the strongest," Ned shared. Additionally, he spoke about the power of taking a long view in regards to our students life. "A C+ student (does not) = a C+ life." Certainly, we have plenty of personal stories and friends who have shared their early academic or social challenges and are now quite successful.
The emphasis on sleep, and the solid research shared which demonstrates that even a minimal drop in required sleep creates significant impairments, mirroring clinical levels of stress, was a powerful reminder to ensure our learners, as well as ourselves, manage this critical need well. Sleep directly impacts our executive functioning (something that most adolescents and children are just developing to begin with). Organization, planning, self-control, emotion-management, flexibility and more are all supported by healthy amounts of sleep.
In addition, they spoke about the challenges of our students being so drivento succeed that they can be burdened with the twin scourge of distorted motivation (wrong goals which are not related to their own flow or passion, but to some perceived societal pressure of what success means), and stress-related high anxiety. Alternatively, the underachiever can be confused about who is really responsible for their achievement (themselves!).
Perhaps one of my favorite statements that Bill made early in the talk was related to the concept of nurturing a growth mindset (something parents have heard me speak of in the past – and our students also). He said, "Can you think of anything you CAN'T get better at with practice?" What a great response to the struggling learner. I would add, however, that Carol Dweck would say that, in addition to hard work, it can also take 1) help from others and 2) new strategies to push through challenge.
Ned encouraged parents to shift from being the director to taking on the role of the consultant, coaching parents to just be more present and in deep appreciation of our children at all ages. "Kids don't usually stay stuck," he said. What a reminder of the power of our long view – and our own need to remove our anxiety from their choices; especially as there continues to be a very low statistical correlation between grades in high school and success in careers. Additionally, Bill spoke of the powerful research around mindfulness practices such as transcendental meditation (Radical Downtime!) as a support tool for our brains and stress. Finally, both speakers reminded us to be real with our children and provide them with an accurate picture of reality which supports their future. Their future is ultimately their choice – and ours to support with the goal of raising a self-driven ADULT!
Enjoy some radical downtime this break – and the opportunity for some deep, fully present discussions on what really matters: our relationships.