Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Do You Want Your Child to Grow or Do You Want Him to Be Comfortable?

We have a basic speech class that we require just about every student in our school to take. It's not a graduation requirement, but our counselors include this semester class for all sophomores unless there is some compelling reason they just can't fit it into their schedule.

We expect all students to take it because we know how important it is to develop good oral communication skills. The class includes public speaking components, but it also provides practice with interpersonal skills and interviewing. It's essential stuff for life.

You've probably heard it stated that people fear public speaking more than death, in surveys at least. So inevitably, there are students who don't want to take this course. And from time to time, I will here from parents who don't want their child to take the course.

Jerry Seinfeld found the humor in just how much most people dread public speaking:

“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."
I get it. Public speaking can produce anxiety, dread, discomfort, apprehension, and more.

As a result, I always listen carefully to parent concerns and try to show empathy and understanding. It can be scary to stand in front of your peers and speak.

But I'm not easily persuaded to change our expectations about students taking this class. It's an excellent opportunity for students to grow and develop all sorts of valuable skills.

So, my dialogue with parents asks them to consider what's best for their child:

"I understand this class makes lots of students uncomfortable. But that can be a good thing because growth requires stepping out of comfort zones. We don't grow stronger by doing what's easy. When we face something hard and push through it, that makes us stronger. So I'm always asking myself as a parent, do I want my kids to be comfortable or do I want them to grow? And the answer, of course, is I want them to grow. Isn't that what all parents want for their kids?"

And of course, parents do want their kids to grow, but for some reason, we've developed a desire in our culture to protect our kids from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. It's very common to see parents protecting their kids from anything that produces discomfort.

But we can't have it both ways.

Growth demands stretching the limits and trying something new. Growth demands risk of failure. It requires some discomfort. So we need to invite kids to embrace the discomfort. And we need to invite parents to encourage discomfort and not rescue kids from the struggle.

So I will continue to share with everyone in our school my belief that we have to get uncomfortable if we want to be all we can be. We have to push past our fear and go for it.

Do you have tips for helping parents understand that it's not a bad thing for their child to be uncomfortable? That productive struggle is a good thing? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

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