Carefully does it….
In today’s mindfulness activity, Prathom 1-2 students needed to use all their concentration powers as they carefully and quietly lifted coloured balls onto bottle tops using chopsticks.
Click here for more photos on the blog.
Last Friday, Prathom 2 shared with their schoolmates what they learned during earth science class about volcano formations, citing examples of well-known active ones like Mount Fuji in Japan, Mount Vesuvius in Italy, and Mount St. Helens in USA. With the help of their self-made model volcanoes, our students then showed us how volcanic eruptions occur. Fascinating!
More photos on the blog.
Now on YouTube! A video showcasing Panyaden Prathom students’ efforts on their self-directed projects, part of the ‘My Project’ programme. Students select, plan, design and deliver their own projects from start to finish under the theme ‘Love Nature’.
Building resilience…and how not to!
by Neil Amas, School Director
At his recent dhamma talk at Panyaden, Ajahn Amaro relayed a story told by American comedian Louis C.K. about dealing with emotions and why he hadn’t bought his early teenage daughters smart phones. The father had been driving home one night when a Bruce Springsteen song from his youth came on the radio. He was so overwhelmed by the memories of teenage angst the song triggered in him, that he pulled over and sobbed into his hands. ‘’And I want my children to experience that!’’ he concluded. Not because he is a mean dad who wants his children to suffer, but because, as Ajahn Amaro put it, of his concern that we are taking away opportunities for young people to learn how to deal with difficulties in their lives. Just a touch of the screen and we are instantaneously distracted from whatever it is we would rather not face head on.
Aside from the debate about whether or not to buy your child a smart phone, the point Ajahn Amaro was making was about the importance of building resilience amongst young people. And research is increasingly showing the need for vigilance against any tendencies we may have to take away those important opportunities in life.
What exactly is resilience? I am not referring to the ability to hold back the tears when you fall down, being able to cook for yourself or ride a bike, although these could well be indicators. More specifically, it is the skilful management of one’s emotions in the face of adversity or disappointment, the ability not to feel demoralised by external events or the inner turmoil of emotions. I imagine that most if not all parents would agree that this is an important life skill to master.
Experts are increasingly clear about what is not building resilience and is, in fact, damaging it: so-called ‘over-parenting’. A survey of Australian teachers, school psychologists and counsellors found numerous examples of this trend, from a 16-year-old whose parents pack him a special meal to take to parties because he is a fussy eater, the mother of an 8-year-old who confronts her daughter’s classmate over a playground altercation, to parental requests for their child to be placed in the same class as a friend. 1
Educational psychologist Darren Stops says, ‘’Children are not allowed to be independent, they’re overscheduled, parents are over-involved in their child’s life, they’re not letting their children learn from their own mistakes. We tend to see more young people that aren’t able to accept the consequences of their own actions because mum and dad will jump in to defend them.’’ 2
The result of this, say experts, are young people who lack resilience, have poor life skills, a strong sense of entitlement and little sense of responsibility; a generation which is highly emotional and expects everything to go their way.
As parents we naturally wish to protect our children from hurt and difficulty. It can be heart-breaking to see your child upset. But sometimes we need to balance parental instinct with a reflective look at what will most benefit our child. Parenting expert Dr Michael Carr-Cregg warns of the dangers of making life as easy as possible for our kids:
‘’On the face of it that’s admirable because we all want the best for our kids, but it teaches them absolutely nothing about resilience and creates immense vulnerability when they leave home and go into the big wide world.’’ 3
Venerable Amaro noted at his talk the current and increasing trend of programme-setting for children, where whole weekends are booked up with a non-stop series of clubs and organised activities. It is too easy, perhaps, to nostalgically look back to the days when ‘’we left home to play after breakfast and didn’t come back until dinner time!’’ But there is a lot to be said for leaving children to their own devices. After all, how do we learn to deal with boredom unless we are given a chance to practise? The distractions so readily provided nowadays by the multitude of electronic devices available or the tendency to fill up children’s free time with organised activities risk reducing children’s opportunities to independently and actively seek out imaginative play and adventure, to create something out of nothing.
Daniel Coyle, author of the bestselling ‘The Talent Code’, writes in his blog, “I’d add the fact that times of struggle and failure are precisely when the most learning occurs — the “sweet spot,” as psychologists call it, when kids go to the edge of their ability and a little beyond. What looks like struggle and failure is, in fact, an act of construction — the making and honing of new connections in their brain.” 4
And in case you need a little incentive, Coyle adds that leaving kids alone doesn’t only mean “1) they develop emotional resilience; and 2) they build skills,” but also, “3) you get more free time. In scientific literature, I believe that’s referred to as a win-win-win!”
So what can parents and teachers do to build resilience? Deliberately make things difficult for our children? No, of course not! Here are some suggestions from various articles and books and from what we are practicing at school.
Let them do it!
As much as possible try to stick to the rule of thumb: Never do for your children what they can do for themselves. Whether it’s dressing themselves, making their bed, getting their school bag ready or making themselves a sandwich, when we jump in our children learn dependence, not independence. Regular chores at home are a good way for children to learn responsibility and that we all have duties to do which we would probably rather avoid!
Promote independent decision-making by giving choices. While it is tempting to say “Go and have a shower now’’ try giving some more choice, such as, “Would you like to have a shower now or after the TV show?” Having a say prepares children for making more and more important decisions as they get older.
They can work it out (…..sometimes!)
Resist the temptation to intervene when siblings are arguing or there is an altercation between classmates, because this can reduce their ability to work out a solution for themselves. If dad always jumps in, they will always expect him to jump in and probably come running to you even at the most minor altercations. Of course, there are times when we simply have to step in – such as when it gets too hurtful or protracted – but let things run a little and kids get the message it is they who need to sort it out.
Model the expected behaviour
Children will follow the examples set by parents and teachers. How do you resolve conflict at home? If you walk off in a huff and slam the door, expect to see a repeat performance by your little one!
Thanks for the advice, but…….!
It is a natural inclination to offer advice or ask questions: ‘I’ve told you so many times to look after your things but you never listen!’ or perhaps, ‘Are you sure you didn’t lose it yourself?’ Rushing in with countless questions or ‘I told you so’ is likely to block a child’s ability to think constructively. A simple but caring acknowledgement like ‘I see’ or ‘Oh, that’s too bad’ gives your child the opportunity to think for himself and maybe even come up with his own solution.
Validate the feeling
For a child to deal with her emotions, she first has to acknowledge and accept them. When we tell a crying child, ‘Never mind, it was only an old teddy bear, nothing to cry about’ we are encouraging her to push away her feelings instead of deal with them. A sincere but calm ‘You really loved that teddy’ or ‘Oh dear, I can see you are upset’ acknowledges her feelings without denying or indulging. It allows her space to deal with her feelings knowing that mum is there to listen without judgement.
Respect the struggle! 5
Find it difficult to watch your child trying to pour a full bottle of milk or open the lid of a jar? Don’t we all! ‘Here, I’ll do it for you’ takes away the opportunity for him to do it himself. Instead, a helpful ’It can be hard to pour when it’s heavy. Holding it with two hands can help’ or ‘Running it under warm water can loosen the lid’ gives him a chance to persevere and learn to see the job through by himself.
Limit screen time
Excessive screen time does not only lead to physical inactivity, dullness of the senses and restlessness, it takes away opportunities to relate with other family members, make use of one’s natural surroundings or simply to be with one’s own thoughts. Agreeing with your child on a reasonable amount of screen time per week (and sticking to it!) not only reduces his time on the computer or TV but also teaches responsibility by making your child part of the decision-making process.
It’s OK to be bored!
It can be wearisome when your child seems to be endlessly demanding to be entertained! While quality time and attention are important, dependency on mum or dad as a source of entertainment is not likely to teach resourcefulness. Likewise, while organised activities after school or at the weekend can have great socialising and other benefits, a non-stop schedule may prevent the down time children need to just be with themselves or build the social and emotional skills that result from unstructured free play with friends, hanging out with their pet, reading or simply dealing with being bored!
1 Coddled kids paying high price: expert by Kate McIlwain, featured in Illawarra Mercury, 9/3/2013
2 Time to cut the cord by Cosima Marriner, featured in The Age newspaper, 20/1/2013
3 Coddled kids paying high price (see above 1)
5 How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (Collins, 1999)
|Click here for the article in Thai – เคล็ดลับในการสร้างภูมิคุ้มกันให้กับบุตรหลาน|
While their P1 and 4 schoolmates were out planting trees at Pure Farm, our K1-3 students were busy cleaning the public grounds of Wat Sala in Hang Dong. In the meantime, P2, 5-6 worked hard to clear garbage left behind at Huay Kaew waterfall. All part of Panyaden’s social contribution efforts for the community and for environmental conservation!
Lots more photos on the blog: