Raising children doesn’t come with a manual. Half the battle is knowing when to lean in and lend a hand and when to step back so children can gain new skills and confidence by learning to do things for themselves.
When it comes to school, clinical psychologist and author of The Bonsai Student Dr Judith Locke says parents, teachers and schools invest more care and effort than ever before to ensure children succeed, yet many young people don’t feel confident, capable and ready to take on life beyond the school gate.
Dr Locke says this lack of readiness is partly due to modern parenting styles. She says despite good intentions, parents who are too invested in managing their children’s wellbeing and performance, can limit their ability to gain the resilience and tools they need to become self-reliant and capable – a phenomenon she calls ‘bonsai’ parenting.
With school now back in swing for tens of thousands of students, Dr Locke offers some timely advice – in the latest Life Education podcast – on how to help children get the most out of the school journey.
She says school is much more than just a means to academic results: it’s also a place where young people gain essential skills like resilience and self-regulation and learn to understand the consequences of their choices.
But children only build those skills if a parent allows them to experience the ups and downs of normal school life, such as attending the swimming carnival (even if they don’t want to), missing out on getting class captain or not making the soccer team. In other words, experiencing everyday life.
Dr Locke also says that the number of A’s on the report card isn’t everything.
I think it’s really important to think that you are developing much more in their schooling than just results,” Dr Locke says.
“Parents can’t guarantee results, even ability in children doesn’t necessarily guarantee results. It’s a combination of factors – and I found this particularly when I was teaching – sometimes kids are doing a little worse than the class average, then they’re doing a little bit better.
“So, I wouldn’t put too much store in results, as much as I put into the effort category in the report card, and their approach to learning and their motivation.”
From dealing with separation anxiety to managing homework woes, and tips to handle bullying, you won’t want to miss this straight-forward advice from one of Australia’s leading experts on parenting, learning and school success.
To find out more go to the Life Education Queensland podcast website.