On the other hand—as the calendar year comes to a close—now is a great time to reflect upon the big picture. Taking the long view, how are we building the core of the young people in our midst?
Building the core of a school musical, for example, involves many pieces. From learning the music, to stage blocking, to costume design, to the angles of the lights; these components eventually all come together to form a finished product. The foundation of a show, however, is built through many hours of practice and rehearsal.
The same is true for any successful athletic team. Designing plays, refining individual skills, and learning how to communicate in the course of a game are all elements that take time to implement. Ultimately, we see these things dancing together when we view a sporting event, but we often do not recognize the hours of practice that occurred behind the scenes.
When it comes to raising children, our ultimate role as teachers and parents is to prepare young people for lives of their own. In many ways, this reflects the process of creating a school musical or forming a team. Starting from the ground level, we are teaching children to communicate and we are showing them how to interact with others. Most important, through our daily actions and words, we are modeling what it means to be a healthy adult.
Unlike the process of building a school musical or athletic team, though, raising children is different because each child brings their own personality and emotions to the equation. Additionally, viewing the final product, unlike viewing an athletic contest, does not happen all at once.
So, I would encourage you to take the long view. Those conversations that you have in the car about handling social situations add to the foundation. Wading through studying strategies to find what works for your child adds to the foundation. Tackling difficult conversations with your child and showing him or her how to move through these interactions with dignity and respect adds to the foundation. Unpacking complex emotions in safe environments promotes problem solving and community building.
In teaching and parenting, the behind the scenes work—the work that is hard and takes many hours over the course of years—is the good stuff. Nurturing empathy, promoting civil discourse, and guiding sound decision making define our work as teachers and parents, and it's this important work that will create the leaders of tomorrow.
During the winter recess and into the New Year, celebrate this time with your child. Try and handle the rush of the season with balance. Embrace the challenges with your middle schooler, make time for the long conversation, and patiently build and nurture that all-important core of character.
·For history buffs; a powerful new 'teen' read:
Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys
·A philosophical approach to tennis and life:
The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey