November 4 2015

Principal’s Message Nov 4, 15

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

This month’s copy of the Harvard Business Review provides a list of the world’s top 100 CEO’s. Top-ping the list is the CEO of Novo Nordisk, Lars Sørensen. Sørensen’s company makes drugs that treat diabetes and he surprisingly credits a lot of the company’s success to luck—increasingly poor diets and a lack of exercise lead to more people getting diabetes, which in turn meant that there was a greater demand for the products his company was selling.

80% of Noro Nordisk’s profits come from selling products that treat diabetes. Because of this people often ask if he is worried that diabetes will some day be cured and no one will need his products any more. In fact Noro Nordisk themselves are working on a cure for diabetes and Sørensen tells his employees “If we wind up curing diabetes, and it destroys a big part of our business, we can be proud, and you can get a job anywhere. We’ll have worked on the greatest social service of any pharmaceutical company, and that would be a phenomenal thing.” It is interesting that Sørensen, who is known for being the greatest business person in the world, is happy if suddenly his business is not needed.
To me, being a parent is a similar job to that of Sørensen’s in that if we do our job well, eventually we will not be needed. When my children were young they relied on me for everything but as they grow older and become more independent they need me less and less. While I appreciate having more free time now that my children do not need me as much, a big part of me misses the feeling of being need-ed by them.

A few years back I remember reading a news article about some families in Hong Kong who had sent their children away to live on campus at university. These families were upset at the university be-cause it had banned them from allowing the family’s domestic helpers to go into the dorm rooms to clean up after their child and do their laundry. To me cleaning up after yourself and doing laundry is a skill that students should have mastered by the time they leave primary school as it is part of a child learning to be independent, and by university it should be a well formed habit.

Psychologist Jean Williams warns parents that “Habitually doing things for your child that she’s capa-ble of doing herself sends an inadvertent message that you don’t have confidence in her abilities,”. The outcome is a child who lacks independence, self-esteem and problem-solving skills and who can’t—or won’t—do age-appropriate tasks. This is sometimes called “learned helplessness.” I believe we do our children a huge disservice if we stop them from learning the skills that they need to be able to look after themselves and its something we need to be mindful of if we want our children to grow well.

If you feel that you may have been doing too much for you child and have not let them develop the independence they need, then below is a summary of some tips from Today’s Parent that I hope you will find useful:

Give Notice—Get your child on board by encouraging her to help “you” change. When Williams real-ized she was doing way more for her son than was necessary, she told him, “I’m sorry. I’ve been treat-ing you like a little kid when you are ready to do some big-kid jobs!” She warns against using phrases like “You’re not a baby anymore”; baby can be a sensitive word in this age group.
Identify opportunities—Make a list of things she could be doing herself. Mine had 13 tasks, includ-ing brushing her teeth. Ask her which duties she feels she’s big enough to take on—it’s likely to in-crease her willingness to try.
Target priorities—Tackle one item at a time, so you don’t overwhelm her.
Make time—If it takes her 10 minutes to brush her own hair, start your morning 10 minutes earlier
(and put down the brush!). When she’s not being micromanaged, she may surprise you with her co-operation, and you’ll be a calmer influence when you’re not racing against the clock.
Negotiate compromise—If she digs in her heels, compromise and inject some fun. For a few days, I took shirt duty, and she did the bottoms. I said that her tree branches (arms) needed their leaves (her shirt) and that she did a great job—and would also be awesome at putting on her own shirt.
Forget perfection—Accept that she won’t do the task as well as you. If the milk spills, show her how to clean it up without criticism and assure her it happens to everyone.
Praise something—Instead of pointing out that her shoes are on the wrong feet, say, “You put on your own shoes! Good job!” She’ll discover the discomfort on her own. Give positive follow-up like, “I bet you’ll get them on the right feet tomorrow.”
Consider circumstances—If kids are tired, sick, stressed or adjusting to a change, it’s not the time to introduce new responsibilities. And don’t be discouraged if they regress, wanting you to do a task af-ter they’ve mastered it. This is normal. Temporarily sharing the load can help them bounce back more quickly than if you scold or criticize them.
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