Our society has a tendency to resort to worship heroes. When they turn out to be imperfect, we “cancel” them and move on to the next person who seems worthy. As parents and educators, it’s tempting to allow the children in our care to place us in that hero category, and to cover up our own anxiety, frustration, and mistakes. After all, not only do we enjoy having someone who has confidence in us, we also want them to feel safe around us. Here’s the problem – making them confident in us by constructing the illusion we are perfect makes them less confident in themselves.
As Adam Grant points out in the video in this article from MindShift, we have a duty to have conversations with children about our own fallibility. They will inevitably experience it themselves, and we can model healthy strategies for dealing with it instead of leading them to believe that their only fallbacks are to give up, lie, or blame others. We need to show them that some things don’t come easily to us, and how to analyze if those things are worth the effort. We can model constructive approaches to confronting difficulties and failure so they do not have to rely on “heroes,” who will eventually let them down.
Last weekend, my 17 year old daughter gave me the best compliment I have ever received from her: “I learned from you that I don’t need to depend on other people to be happy.” She knows about my battle with depression, mistakes that I regret, and struggles I still have. She is well aware that I’m not the perfect parent she idolized when she was three. But just like every other disappointment that has come her way, she deals with it.
(I’ll be adding this video to my Growth Mindset Pinterest Board.)