Harvard University recently reported the worst cheating scandal in its history. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I presume to be the high level of fear (e.g., of not being successful) experienced by the students involved. I’ve been reflecting on Edwin Friedman’s view, which he described in the late 1990′s (in his book Failure of Nerve), that we live in a chronically anxious and emotionally reactive society. Mr. Friedman emphasized the need for people who can function in families, businesses, and organizations as what he called “a non-anxious presence” – or individuals who can lead with courage. I suspect that this is even more true today than it was then. In my view, it is important for us as parents to work in the direction of being a non-anxious presence for our children. Although kids don’t need perfect parents (just good enough parents), we can optimally support our children’s development when we are not highly anxious, fearful, reactive, or overly controlling. Consider, for example, that when we are not highly stressed or anxious we can much more effectively comfort an infant or sooth a toddler, respond to children in a flexible and mature manner, help teenagers figure out who they want to become, and enjoy our kids (which may be the best gift we can give them). So, about the best advice I can give parents is to build routines into your daily life that are “de-stressing”, whether it’s regular exercise, a daily meditation practice, yoga classes, or martial arts training. Also, make enjoying your kids — as they are — a top priority, and remember that most kids turn out to be perfectly fine adults even if they are not top students or don’t seem to excel at anything in particular as children.
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