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We Are Westridge
A community blog featuring Head of School Elizabeth J. McGregor, the Westridge Leadership Team, our esteemed faculty members and occasional special guests
Developing Self-Advocacy in Children Requires Self-Restraint from Parents
by Head of School Elizabeth J. McGregor
A recent New York Times opinion piece, Four Ways to Help Your College Student Grow Up, rang true to discussions we have on campus regularly and especially this year surrounding our visit from Dr. Lisa Damour, author of Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. At times, with the best of intentions, adults do young people a disservice by eliminating discomfort rather than helping them work through challenges or recover from difficulties. In doing so we rob them of opportunities for personal growth as well as the pride and confidence boost of knowing they can handle more than they thought they could.
Our faculty talks about the importance of pushing students beyond their comfort zones while creating the support structures students need to feel confident taking risks or to grow from a failure rather than crumble in its face. Our students recognize the need for this as well. In discussions with Dr. Damour in December, our Upper School students suggested how we might create more safe opportunities for “failure” in their classwork, allowing them to take risks in their thinking and approaches to projects while finding a positive balance with the fact that grades do matter in the educational ecosystem.
Stories, like those in this opinion piece, of students who lack resourcefulness or life skills, or whose parents reach out to college professors or administrators to manage student issues, are unfortunately all too common in the U.S. today. Purposefully allowing girls to take the lead in their problem solving from a young age, with developmentally appropriate guidance and support, is the immunization for this problem. At Westridge, this work begins in our Lower School with an emphasis on growth mindset and helping our youngest students develop skills to work through problems with friends and advocate for themselves with their teachers. It is a thread in our human development curriculum in all divisions, and is a common theme throughout our college counseling program, culminating in its three-part “Next Steps” series that aims to prepare seniors and their parents for life in college beyond academics.
Purposefully allowing girls to take the lead in their problem solving from a young age, with developmentally appropriate guidance and support, is the immunization for this problem.
As an educator and even now as the parent of three wonderfully independent adult children, I know it can be hard to stay on the sidelines when you see a child suffering and know you could provide a quick fix, but the payout is both immeasurable and essential.
If you are interested reading more on this topic, I recommend How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims.Tweet
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