A boy’s education at Trinity is rich with opportunity and busy-ness. However, it is critical to remember that there will be difficult times; there will be ups and there will be downs, but without challenge your son cannot grow and develop his God-given talents. This is such an important life skill that he learns – education, and life in general, is not about success or failure, but perseverance and effort.
We want boys to realise that when they find themselves in adversity, instead of wanting to quickly relieve the unhappiness or stress of the situation by looking for short-fix solutions, to instead pause and see what they are being taught by the adversity, and to learn and grow from the experience. Adversity can be a great teacher.
Psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has written and spoken about his significant concerns for this generation of young people not being as resilient as previous generations. He encourages us, parents and educators, to refrain from protecting young people in ‘cotton wool’ – but to see instead that they have to learn to stand on their own two feet and deal with setbacks – and that they realise disappointment and failure are an important part of becoming resilient, and an important part of how we learn.
Helping your son to develop what we call a ‘growth’ mindset (when he sees his ability as something that can be improved through effort and application) as opposed to a ‘fixed’ mindset (where he sees his ability as being unable to be changed) can make a significant difference in determining his level of self-confidence, resilience and motivation. Dr Jenny Brockis, a brain health specialist, offers some practical suggestions to help support the development of a growth mindset in your son:
- Encourage liberally and use process praise: “You used smart strategies”, “You worked hard on that one”, “You thought long and hard to work that problem out”. When congratulating your son, use words that praise the outcome that has resulted from him putting in the work and effort. When things go wrong, ask, “What could you do differently next time to get a better result?” Failure and making mistakes is normal. Learning to deal with them effectively helps build resilience.
- Focus on struggle and effort, not just on victory. Be on the look-out for times when your son applies sustained effort and application, and applaud this.
- Share stories of struggle and overcoming adversity with your son: Whether it’s stories from your own life (boys love to hear about when their parents struggled) or stories from public news and sport, the narratives of the struggles of others can be inspiring for boys.
- Use the power of “Yet”. If your son tells you, “I’m no good at...” or “I can’t do that”, your response could be, “You’re just not there ... yet”. This implies that it is work in progress and success may come through perseverance. It’s not about false hope, but encouragement.
As parents, it is natural to want to see our children do well. Their health and wellbeing is vitally important. It’s easy as a parent to get caught in the “winning trap”. We sometimes just get carried along with the hype. But maybe, just maybe, finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even last is better for children in the long term than always being a winner.
For each boy, usually, his educational path is going to be a complex and unique journey that he individually creates with the support and wisdom of those around him. This is what it should be – we want him to face challenges, we want him to work hard at achieving his goals, and we want him to persist, persist, persist - this is how he will learn and grow into the fine young manhood we all want for him.
To learn more about how Trinity knows boys need to flourish, download a prospectus here.