Hello again! We’re continuing our series on on the list of attributes we should try to foster in our children (according to Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton, in their book Educating Ruby). Our last two newsletters focussed on confidence and curiosity. This week’s topic may seem a less obvious choice, but read on to find out the value of….
As the world becomes more and more connected, we are increasingly thrown into the path of people who are ‘different’ to us – whether it’s via social media; world travel; working in multinational companies or just being exposed to films, books or art from other cultures. Our children will need to survive in an increasingly diverse world and work alongside a huge range of people. That is such a wonderful gift, and the best way to take advantage of that gift is to embrace the differences in all of us.
By working with others and hearing what they have to say, we learn more about ourselves.
Teaching children that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses; that we all think and see the world slightly differently; and that working together is the best way to solve problems, will be incredibly empowering to them. What we often forget is that, by teaching our children to accept others, we are also teaching them to accept themselves, as they are, faults and all.
So what can we, practically, do to help our children navigate this diverse society in an open minded and collaborative way?
Actions speak louder than words
As Claxton and Lucas point out, it’s very difficult to ‘teach’ kindness. However, as parents, we can create an environment where we value the differences in each other, and where we try to show empathy and understanding when dealing with people. Actions speak louder than words on this one, so the way you treat people around you, and the way in which you try to get the family working together, will be crucial.
Acknowledge the differences between members of the family. Treating all siblings the same, or trying to compare one to another, is rarely constructive. They are all individuals and should be treated as such. Think of your family as a team and try to highlight and utilise the skills of each team member so that you can get the best out of everybody.
It’s very rare these days to have a job which doesn’t require giving and receiving some form of feedback. It’s everywhere, and we need to learn how to deal with it. Being able to give constructive feedback is a fabulous skill to take into adulthood, but so is the ability to listen to it. How many of us cringe and shrink at a compliment, and find criticism (even if truthful, fair and well-meaning) personally wounding?
By teaching our children to deal with being on both sides of the feedback fence, we will make them better team players. And that is going to get them a long way in life. Show them how important it is to listen to and learn from criticism – even if you don’t agree with it. Try not to act defensively but, again, lead by example. It’s very empowering to know that you are capable of speaking up (calmly, kindly and constructively) if things aren’t right, but also that you can learn from the experience of others without feeling under attack.
The best way to become a better team player is, like most things, to practise! Get your child used to being around other people and working alongside them, rather than competing against them. This is where sporting teams, drama clubs and group activities (like the scouts or brownies) come to the fore. Far from being ‘less important’ add-ons to a child’s education, these types of activity will help them to prepare for adulthood in a positive and practical way.
So, teamwork for the win! We’ll be back next time with some babble about communication.
Have a lovely week everyone!
If you’d like to explore these ideas further, we highly recommend you find a copy of Educating Ruby or visit their website www.educatingruby.org . The book is enjoyable, informative and uplifting and we think it would be of benefit to every parent and teacher.