Does It Matter How We Raise and Educate Our Children?

I believe that the concept of resilience offers an ethical and scientifically valid framework for raising and educating children. The tenets housed within this framework make sense. There is a large body of research suggesting that for all children these qualities of resilience in part predict, successful outcome. The process embracing the concepts and methods associated with resilience can be objectively defined. There are increasing data reflecting the reliable measurement of these phenomena and increasing interest in attempting to apply these qualities in parenting and education. But how do we apply effectively model and apply these processes? Do we parent and teach more or less, or in a different way?  

   In my work I have described the influence of parents within a framework of resilience. A resilient mindset, which provides the foundation for one’s ability to cope with and over come adversity, is not a luxury or a blessing possessed by some children but an essential component for all children. Based on my review and interpretation of the scientific literature, I continue to advocate the view that while some children are genetically endowed with greater stress hardiness and capacity for resilience, sources of resilience are also found in everyday experiences, in the quality of upbringing, and in the success children experience in important areas of life such as school and friends. I have suggested that a deficit model may be appropriate for identifying how and why children are different and even for prescribing strategies to improve those differences. However, I now believe our highest priority is to improve the future of all children by identifying and harnessing their strengths and by recognizing, accepting, and effectively utilizing what science has to offer in regards to the power of resilience factors on children’s lives.

   With this in mind, it is my hope that we can all agree that we must identify both those parental practices that nurture the skills and stress hardiness necessary for children to deal with an increasingly complex and demanding world as well as those practices that hurt our children. We must find consistent ways of raising and educating our children that will lead them to happiness, success in school, satisfaction in their lives, and solid friendships. To help children realize these goals requires them to develop the inner strength to deal competently and successfully, day after day, with the challenges and demands they encounter. Regardless of ethical, cultural, religious, or scientific beliefs, we must strive to raise resilient youngsters, that is, youngsters capable of dealing effectively with stress and pressure, coping with everyday challenges, possessing the capacity to bounce back from disappointment, adversity or trauma, learning to develop clear and realistic goals to solve problems, relating comfortably with others, and treating oneself and others with respect. Numerous scientific studies of children facing great adversity in their lives support the importance of resilience as a powerful force. The process of resilience explains why some children overcome overwhelming obstacles, sometimes clawing and scraping their way to successful adulthood, while others become victims of their earlier experiences and environments.

   I have no argument with science when it is suggested that parents and educators may play less of a role in some areas of their children’s development but perhaps more of a role in others. I take no offense when research implies that the influence of parents and educators in shaping intellect, personality, and certain aspects of behavior may be more limited than previously assumed. However, I question those who interpret this research in ways that minimize the impact that parents and educators can have. I believe that my theories and ideas are in concert with the current research reflecting the role of parents and educators. The new millennium offers unlimited possibilities and unimagined advances. I believe the future lies not in advancements in technology, although these certainly are important, but rather in the actions of parents, teachers, and other adults instilling children with the resilient qualities necessary to help them find their hero and shape a future marked by satisfaction, confidence, and optimism.

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