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What Is It that Kids Need to Succeed?


Succeessful Kids


This morning a young mom told me a heart-warming story about her son.  It was a great example to me, once again, of how essential it is for parents and teachers to find “the key” (or keys) to what sparks enthusiasm, responsibility, and self-discipline for learning and achievement in their children and students.  These days, life can be challenging for young people and their parents and teachers.  It can also be rewarding.

Funny how that conversation with that young mom preceded my coming across an article on the SEARCH Institute blog that spoke to the same idea.  In that article, SEARCH Institute President and CEO, Kent Pekel, quoted something that President Abraham Lincoln said in 1855 while advising a young law student.  And it was, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”

Pekel went on to dissect and share his observations about the wisdom and power behind that bit of advice.  First, he cited that it is important for all of us to think about our thinking.  This is referred to as “meta cognition.”  As parents and teachers, it helps to think about our own thinking so that we can navigate life with understanding and intentionality.  Likewise, it is our responsibility to teach our children and students to do the same thing so that they learn to control impulses and identify what they don’t understand.  Pekel stated, “…when those techniques are taught and used, young people are much more likely to complete tasks and achieve their goals.”  

Second, Pekel pointed out that while Lincoln had certainly urged the young law student to strive for success in life, he had left it to him to define the meaning of success. Similarly, Pekel emphasized the need for adults to allow and encourage young people to define success in ways that are meaningful and motivating to them, pointing out that there is more than one pathway to become a thriving and contributing adult in our society.  This was what was at the crux of the story that the young mom had told me.

Lastly, Pekel interpreted Lincoln’s advice to suggest that personal passion and perseverance are necessary but not alone sufficient.  Because structural and cultural barriers exist, adults need to work to remove barriers and provide our children and students with resources such as food, school supplies, health care, counseling, and positive role models that are essential to their success. 

SEARCH Institute is well-known for its leadership in helping to form community coalitions that have motivated individuals, families, organizations, and communities to work together to build “developmental assets,” and also for conducting research on the nature of thriving in adolescence. “Discovering What Kids Need to Succeed” is the tagline for the SEARCH Institute. 

Based on:  “A Holiday is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” Kent Pekel, http://www.search-institute.org/blog/holiday-terrible-thing-waste

Photo Credit:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/HA_delivers_to_a_local_kindergarten.jpg  (Downloaded 2-22-16)

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