Brian Underwood: Rising from the ashes a benefit of occasional crashes
January 21, 2019
"Tower to Copter One, come in, please."
"This is Copter One, over."
"Yeah, Copter One, we've had reports of interference in your area, over."
"Tower, this is Copter One. Not sure what you mean by interference, but I'm currently circling over several targets requiring my attention and concentration, over."
"Copter One, ground reports we've had from your children indicate a suffocating presence from your unit that's preventing them from assessing the situations in front of them, risking a weakened condition in the future. Tower urges you to pullback, over."
"Tower, this is Copter One. I'm having difficulty hearing you now. I've got the situation well in hand. Will let you know if I need assistance. Out."
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(Note: This was a re-enactment, and no actors were hurt or endangered during the scenario. Local authorities were on stand-by in the event of an actual emergency.)
But this really is sort of a minor emergency in some homes where overprotective parents, in the name of loving their children, swoop in every time their child is remotely challenged, preventing them of learning the coping skills to overcome adversity.
So, are you the parent who is seated in the tower and is able to objectively keep your child on the radar and provide dispassionate, sage guidance, or are you the helicopter parent who constantly hovers and inserts him/herself when difficult situations arise for your child?
Now, don't get me wrong; parenting is as complicated and uncertain a job as there is, and it's unrealistic to be completely dispassionate, but to be overly involved, to the point of routinely routing and rescuing your child is not healthy either. It requires balance, and sometimes the restraint to allow our kids to fail.
For example, of the most memorable and enduring lesson you've ever learned, how many came from dutifully following advice versus failures, courtesy of the School of Hard Knocks (SHK)?
I actually received my doctorate from SHK. The food was terrible, and so was the curriculum, but looking back at things, I'm glad my parents allowed me to attend. I'm sure they were hoping I wouldn't graduate from there – with honors, but I have to say I'm better for it. And here is strong evidence that shows taking a course, or two, from SHK is not a bad thing.
In an October 2015 article written by ABC Radio, Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former dean at Stanford University and author of "How to Raise an Adult," stated that, "being too overprotective and doing so much for their kids that it's keeping their children from becoming fully functional, independent adults."
It's instinctive for parents to want to prevent their children from climbing up to the high wire and risk falling. But if there have been incremental heights they've been allowed to scale and, yes, sometimes fall from, the better equipped they'll be to have better balance in their decision making going forward. And always with parents as a safety net to love them through missteps and mistakes.
In fact, for college-bound students needing to submit an essay, it's sometimes the ability to effectively communicate how he/she has overcome a personal failure or difficult situation that reveals the kind of character an admissions office wants to see in prospective students.
Eric Hoover, a senior writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote in a 2017 article featured in The New York Times that there are a few common characteristics that admissions officers value, not just for admission purposes, but for the lifelong impact they have.
"What colleges look for sends a powerful message about what matters, not just to admissions officers but in life, and students often respond accordingly," Hoover wrote.
He went on to cite work by Dr. Pérez, vice president for enrollment and student success at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., who recently revamped Trinity's process to better identify promising students. "While reading applications, its admissions officers now look for evidence of 13 characteristics — including curiosity, empathy, openness to change and ability to overcome adversity."
And years later, the ability to reflect on and use past disappointments can be a catalyst to greatness. Roger Dean Duncan, a 40-year business consultant who has worked with two White House administrations, advised several U.S. senators, and headed worldwide communications for Campbell Soup Co., cites benefit in embracing failure.
"…most of the 'leadership literature' seems to glide past the hardship," Duncan wrote. "And many leaders seem to prefer focusing on the triumphs, as though honest discussion of mistakes and misfortune would somehow make them look weak or lacking in confidence."
Duncan followed this up with commentary from former Microsoft Executive Steven Snyder who wrote the book Leadership and the Art of Struggle: How Great Leaders Grow Through Challenge and Adversity, based on the stories of 150 leaders who have experienced struggle and redemption.
"As I interviewed top leaders in my research, I asked them to tell me about the times when they faced their most intense challenge," Snyder stated. "Showing remarkable courage, all of these leaders navigated through their ordeals, their achievements eclipsing what would have been possible during 'ordinary times.'"
These data points on the value of allowing children to endure non-life threatening adversity offer well intended helicopter parents reason for pause when considering the cost-benefit before swooping in on the next rescue mission. And to maybe considering air traffic control versus having a hand too tightly on the joystick.
"Tower, this is Copter One, over."
"Copter One, this is Tower, over.
"Tower, permission to vacate the hover pattern and land."
"Copy that, Copter One. Permission granted."