Last week I was fortunate to attend a teacher professional development session run by Judith Locke, clinical psychologist. Judith’s recent research (aptly titled ‘Can a parent do too much? An examination of parenting professionals of the concept of overparenting’) focused on the counterproductive effect of extreme parental protection and responsiveness. Extreme overparenting can lead to children being less resilient at times of frustration or failure, less capable of compromise and less responsive to feedback. These are all issues that have a tendency to spill from the family context into the school context.
The focus of our session with Judith was helping our students to gain self-regulation skills and resilience, with an emphasis on practical strategies that we as teachers can employ in our interactions with students to encourage them to develop such skills. A synthesis of the session led me to draw the following broad conclusions about what I can do as a teacher to help my students become more resilient:
- Don’t try to fix things. Students will become more resilient of they find their own solutions to and take responsibility.
- Diffuse the emotion of situations quickly. Show that you aren’t phased by tough situations and model how to deal with such situations objectively.
- Don’t compromise on too many of the little things. Students who are given a lot of leeway on the little things (uniform, handing things in on time, being too familiar) often have a lot of trouble accepting consequences for the larger issues. Maintaining a standard provides consistency and predictability for students.
As with most discussions about student resilience, this session provided equal measures of controversy, enthusiasm and food for thought for the participants.