August 15, 2021

by Kerry Lynch

I’m filled with nostalgia at this time of year. My mind goes back to all those thrilling first days of school. And believe me, I’ve had many. In fact, having been a teacher, mother and principal, I basically never stopped going to school. And I always enjoyed the little rituals that came with the new school year. I readily embraced years of getting and buying new shoes, backpacks and pencil cases and prepping the pantry for 180 days of school lunch fixings. It was also the time I made my “new year” resolutions and tried to encourage my kids to do the same. This is a great time of the year to talk to your students about developing and strengthening their habits of mind.

What are habits of mind? They are dispositions toward behaving intelligently and responsibly in the face of challenges or dilemmas. People with strong habits of mind approach problems by employing a series of abilities they draw upon to get a good outcome. Sometimes you might call these life skills. Parents are often the primary teachers of these habits of mind and committing to instill these lessons at the beginning of the school year may prove more helpful than buying a new pencil case! 

To help your students develop strong habits of mind to draw upon when faced with unexpected challenges, begin by committing not to jump in and solve every problem. Follow that with some reflection on what your children may be facing this coming year and think about how you can reinforce skills such as persistence, striving for accuracy and responsible risk taking. The nice thing about building your children’s habits of mind is that it does not require “a talk” but merely an awareness of the benefits and growth that come to a child who is supported as she finds her way through the inevitable dilemmas of the school year. Your role is to communicate and assist. Here are some questions that may help when issues arise:

  • What is your plan? Would you like to practice?
  • What is your next step?
  • Was this the outcome you were expecting?
  • That was a challenge! What do you wish you had done differently? 

There is a lot to learn from productive struggle. Parents can help build the skills that will lead to confidence, grit and social flexibility. Happy New (School) Year!

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