Our youth tend to get a bad rap at times.
I read recently about how the dreaded ‘Helicopter Parents’ – who swoop in at the first sign of trouble – have been usurped by new variety of overbearing Parentals known as the ‘Lawn Mower Parents’. These ‘Lawn Mower Parents’ are the parents who actually go one step further, clearing potential obstacles out of the way in their children’s lives like lawn mowers paving a clear path through grass. In a bid to make their kids’ lives easier, they in fact inadvertently rob them of critical life lessons and experience.
The apparent result is children who lack resilience and are incapable of problem-solving their own way through life.
Read between the lines – our kids these days are lacking.
Parenting is not an easy gig. And none of us really knows whether our actions, whether well intended or not, are actually contributing towards the end goal of making independent, well- adjusted adults who are not only capable and confident, but who care about the wellbeing of others around them.
“I’ve never met a lawnmower parent whose heart wasn’t in the right place–they all wanted what was best for their kids. But they were all too focused on reducing their child’s discomfort in the short-term, rather than focusing on their child’s needs in the long-term.” Amy Morin ‘13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do’
While I don’t deny that this variety of parents and their offspring do very much exist, what also exists are many exceptional kids who, fuelled by a higher degree of empathy and awareness of the changing world around them, are more attuned to what it means to be an active, responsible member of the society in which they live.
Contrary to what social media would have us believe it is not all bad. Parenting is a learning curve just like everything else. For every overattentive Lawn Mower Parent out there, there is another five parents who are absolutely nailing it. But you won’t find articles about the parents who are nailing it. Because sadly, they probably don’t even know that they are.
Our Year 7 students had their leadership speeches on Monday. I was completely blown away by the depth of character and broad range of issues discussed throughout these speeches. These kids are twelve: some eleven, others thirteen. They are the ‘babies’ of the school who have had this first term to settle into their new environment and forge new friendships. In what is a monumental shift in mindset, these kids have, in a matter of a few short months, descended from the dizzying high of being the leaders of their primary setting back to the rock bottom of the social hierarchy in their secondary school environment. It’s a massive change for them – one that perhaps for many is the largest of their young lives so far – and what does it tell us when many of these kids are sailing through this with relative ease?
Surely this is an indicator of some resilience?
Upon hearing the maturity and empathy expressed throughout their speeches, it occurred to me how little ‘airtime’ this more positive side of our early adolescent population receives.
Ten kids made it through the rigorous selection process, involving interviews and written applications to the final candidates who presented their speech to the cohort of their 300 peers. Let me tell you, their speeches did not disappoint.
Here are a few of the sentiments expressed:
‘Firstly, I believe a leader is a good friend. As a good friend, it is important that you are made to feel valued. You should be made to feel special, listened to and cared for. Even on days when we doubt ourselves, your friend is always there to encourage you, support you and bring out the best in you.’
‘Yes, we are the youngest grade in the school, but we matter just as much as every other grade, and as a collaborative we need to have our opinions and voices heard.’
‘A good leader will always listen to others and will never judge about whom that person is and what they do. They listen to their peers because they know it is the best way to understand a situation so they can make the best decision possible.’
I’m fairly certain that I wasn’t as focused on the wellbeing of those around me when I was twelve. Were you?
Most of our kids, even at this tender age, know what it means to be a good friend, and they know what it feels like to give back to others around them. They know how important it is to listen. They know how difficult life can be and they know how kindness and empathy can make life that bit easier. They know about diversity, and how important it is to appreciate and embrace difference, and they also know about the range of resources available to them for when they inevitably struggle and stumble along the way.
For eleven and twelve year olds, they know an awful lot.
Fear not parents – our kids are doing just fine.