by Madeline Levine, Ph.D.
Remembering What Really Matters
March 31, 2015
I was asked to write this blog on “grit.” A concept I mostly endorse and a word that simply annoys me.
Parents worry about their children’s physical health and emotional well-being.
Apparently the toddler who isn’t reading by two or three is considered pretty much a lost cause.
How odd, since Finland, one of Hong Kong’s competitors for highest rankings on international testing, doesn’t even begin to teach children how to read until they enter school at age 7.
Hospitals beg for resources to treat the children suffering from typhoid and dengue fever.
I think back to how easy it was to get my kids vaccinated when they were babies. How we walked into a drugstore for typhoid immunization right before the trip (two of my three sons came with me). I think about the debates around how many AP courses a high school student should take or whether to apply to 8 schools or 10 and realize the luxury of worrying about problems like these.
And I think of a question my Challenge Success Co-Founder, Denise Pope, posed to me nearly 8 years ago. “Would you rather your children were good or smart?” Denise knows I considered this an unfair question. A “yes/but” question, not an “either/or” question. But it haunts me in Cambodia. I think about how broken the world is. Of course we want our children to be both good and smart. And my youngest son Jeremy helps me to answer Denise’s question. When I say I can’t wait to leave Cambodia he looks at me with puzzlement. “I want to come back,” he says. “Why?” I ask. “It seems hopeless.” But that’s the point, my son says, “It’s a blank slate, anything you do here would help. It’s the easiest place to make a difference.” He’s already talking about a return trip. The answer is “good.” Definitely good.
Stop worrying about your kids’ grades and acceptances and standings. There are 24 hours in a day. Cultivate empathy and caring and goodness. There is a broken world out there. Just waiting for our children to help fix it.
Madeline Levine, Ph.D., is a nationally known psychologist with over 25 years of experience as a clinician, consultant, and educator. Her New York Times best-selling book, The Price of Privilege, explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems. Her follow-up best-selling book, Teach Your Children Well, focuses on expanding our current narrow and shortsighted view of success and providing concrete strategies for parents. Her two previous books, Viewing Violence and See No Evil, both received critical acclaim. Dr. Levine began her career as an elementary and junior high school teacher in the South Bronx of New York before moving to California and earning her degrees in psychology. She has taught Child Development classes to graduate students at the University of California Medical Center / San Francisco. Dr. Levine lectures extensively to parent, school and business audiences both nationally and internationally.