Smooth Sailing is the Enemy

“Snow Plowing” is a term being used for parents who move every obstacle out of the way of their children. It isn’t too hard to imagine the real life consequences of this bad idea. Go ahead and put spotters on the ends of the barbell your child is bench pressing and see how strong he gets “lifting” less than he imagines. Perhaps your kid can say he benched 300 pounds, but put him in a situation where his strength is needed, and…

Page 40 of “The Gift of Failure: How the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed” by Jessica Lahey shares

IMG_1248…But interesting research shows that smooth sailing isn’t where real, deep learning happens. Small failures when the stakes are relatively low and the potential for emotional and cognitive growth is high, are what psychologists Elizabeth and Robert Bjork call “desirable difficulties.” Learning that comes with challenge is stored more effectively and more durably in the brain than learning that comes easily.

I’ve never tried this, but I feel artsy, so here is an illustration. Don’t judge the art, only the concepts;)IMG_6783

Further explanation:

  1. Smooth waters will get the sailor nowhere fast… not even fast.
  2. The wise parent/teacher provides opportunities for student/sailors to learn with appropriate tasks/difficulties.
  3. Storms will arise. There will be concepts and tasks that can smash a cognitive ship to bits. When this happens, swim to safety, and go buy another ship. Or, even better, find yourself shipwrecked on an deserted island and learn to fend for yourself. Or, build a survival raft from the wreckage. Or… you see where this is headed.
  4. Perhaps the student/sailor had enough practice and/or the concept/ship was built well enough to withstand the storm. Hurray, and good for you!

Hope you enjoyed the metaphor. What can you add to the thinking?IMG_4272